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From the Associated Press:

OXFORD, Miss. — There’s been a lot of talk about liquor on Oxford’s downtown square as this Mississippi college town considers Sunday alcohol sales. Some see it as a transgression of the Lord’s Day; others a time to put religious reservations aside.
A growing list of cities and counties in the Bible Belt and beyond have shrugged off alcohol restrictions in hopes of more tax revenue and economic development in lean times. Localities in pursuit of new revenue are re-examining long-standing perceptions about drinking being a sin or vice.
Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson and other city leaders have been discussing the idea of Sunday alcohol sales at restaurants.
Debate about alcohol in Oxford has raged in some form or another at least since the days of William Faulkner, the Mississippi literary great who wrote a letter to the local newspaper in the 1940s in support of legalizing beer.
Nowadays the talk is of recession and improving the bottom line.
“In times of recession, revenue that were previously foregone are now sought,” explained Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland. “If people are leaving your county on Sundays to drink, you’re losing revenue.”

 

The evening of Jan. 16, 1920, hours before Prohibition descended on America, while the young assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin Roosevelt, drank champagne in Washington with other members of Harvard’s class of 1904, in Norfolk, Va., evangelist Billy Sunday preached to 10,000 celebrants: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. … ” Not exactly.

Daniel Okrent’s darkly hilarious “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” recounts how Americans abolished a widely exercised private right – and condemned the nation’s fifth-largest industry – in order to make the nation more heavenly.

Then all hell broke loose. Now that ambitious government is again hell-bent on improving Americans – from how they use salt to what light bulbs they use – Okrent’s book is a timely tutorial on the law of unintended consequences.

READ FULL COLUMN

From the Associated Press:

RICHMOND, Va. — With about 5,000 brands of liquor available on store shelves nationwide, suppliers of some top-selling spirits hope modernization of state alcohol laws will get customers to try new products boost revenue for them and states.

Virginia is one of the latest states to change what critics say are outdated alcohol laws. Beginning in July, the state will let customers sample products before buying at about 330 Alcohol and Beverage Control, or ABC, stores.

New Jersey, Vermont and Maine also eased their tasting laws in the last year, and a total of 43 states have changed liquor laws to allow spirit sampling at stores, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade association representing nearly 70 percent of all liquor brands.

Tastings laws are part of a larger movement to modernize state alcohol laws to cater to consumer demand and help generate cash for money-strapped states without having to raise taxes or cut programs. States also have moved to repeal age-old prohibitions on selling alcohol on Sundays and Election Day.

Full article: Some states easing laws on liquor tastings

Congratulations to the Tuscaloosa City Council and Gov. Riley for putting the Sunday alcohol sales decision to the voters.

Gov. Riley signed the Tuscaloosa Sunday alcohol referendum bill into law on Monday — freeing up the City Council to put the question of whether to allow Sunday alcohol sales to the voters. 

Right now the Council is leaning toward Feb. 22, 2011 as the date for the referendum in what may be a nod to our first President (and First Distiller) George Washington, who will be celebrating his 279th birthday. 

Read about it here in the Tuscaloosa News.

The Decatur City Council on Monday unveiled an ordinance that would allow both on- and off-premise liquor sales on Sundays, if voters approve this April at the ballot box.

On April 13, voters will cast ballots in support or opposition to Sunday liquor sales.

Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce officials said not further restricting Sunday sales was the obvious choice considering the revenue generated by alcohol sales at off-premise locations, which include package, grocery and convenience stores.

“The on-premise piece of the business is only 5.37 percent, and so if only on-premise sales were permitted, there would still be a huge leakage of revenue to Huntsville, the city of Madison and Madison County,” said chamber Chairman Wade Weaver.

The suggested ordinance reflects the majority of Sunday sales laws throughout the state.

Read full article in today’s Decatur Daily here.

From AP Tuscaloosa:

Alabama’s state Senate has approved a local bill that would allow a referendum on Sunday liquor sales in Tuscaloosa.

The state Senate passed a local bill Tuesday that would allow the City Council to schedule a referendum on the issue.

The bill now goes to Gov. Bob Riley, who has not indicated what he will do. His choices are to send it back to the Legislature with suggestions, sign it into law or allow it to become law without his signature.

The referendum would ask voters whether to allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays between noon and 9:30 p.m. When a Sunday falls on a New Year’s Eve, alcoholic beverages could be sold until 2 a.m. Monday.

Full story here.

Last week Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation repealing the Prohibition-era ban on Election Day alcohol sales.  Election Day alcohol bans are truly a relic of the Prohibition era when saloons sometimes served as polling stations.  Indiana had a particularly harsh Election Day ban considering restaurant goers couldn’t even get a cocktail while the polls were open.  Only Kentucky and South Carolina have similarly harsh bans.  Each of those states are also considering repeal as more and more states continue to modernize outdated alcohol laws.

For now, we raise a toast to Indiana for recognizing how irrational its Election Day alcohol sales ban had become, and for striking it down for good. 

Read more about the bill here: New Indiana alcohol law raises businesses’ spirits

One revenue source Connecticut voters would like to see implemented is Sunday alcohol sales — according to a new Quinnipiac poll released yesterday.

The poll found voters in favor of allowing Sunday alcohol sales in liquor stores by a count of 56-39, up several ticks from the last Q poll on the topic. 

The poll was taken March 9-15 and surveyed 1,451 registered state voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Click here to read more: Rell’s keno proposal panned in survey of state voters

In a strong move toward modernizing Virginia’s alcohol laws, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed legislation knocking down a decades-old ban on liquor tasting events at ABC stores, according to the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) which said the bill modernized an outdated law that had only allowed for beer and wine tastings.  

House Bill 952, sponsored by Delegate S. Chris Jones, gives adult consumers the opportunity to sample up to three separate one-half ounce servings of spirits in any one calendar day at a pre-planned tasting event.

David Wojnar, vice president for the Council, had this to say:

“In today’s economy it’s more important than ever to give customers the tools to make better purchasing decisions.   Most consumers wouldn’t purchase a nice $40-$50 bottle of Scotch if they’ve never tasted it.  Repealing the ban on spirits tastings is a great, modern convenience for Virginians that ultimately helps Virginia’s bottom line.”

HB 952 passed the House on February 12 by a count of 75-17 and the Senate n February 23 by a vote of 31-9. Governor McDonnell signed the bill into law yesterday and it takes effect July 1, 2010.  

Forty-three states currently allow some form of spirits tasting. Thirty-one states, including Virginia, now allow spirits tastings at off-premise establishments, Wojnar noted.

A grassroots organization known as Oklahomans for Alcohol Law Reform (OFLAR) has sprung up in the Sooner State. 

As more and more states modernize outdated alcohol laws to generate more revenue without raising taxes or cutting programs, some Oklahomans feel their own state legislators should consider repeal. 

Randy Burleson, a founding member of OFLAR, recently told the Oklahoma Gazette:

“We think it’s a matter of consumer demand,” Burleson said. “We would just like to have the option. I believe retailers would like the option to be open on Super Bowl Sunday, too, or even on Sundays during the football season.  That’s money we could use in the state budget.”

Also according to the Gazette, Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, who sponsored repeal legislation this session, said he knew of no public policy or public health reasons why the state should not allow Sunday sales.  Rice said:

“I suppose historically they didn’t want people drinking on Sunday, but you can always stock up on Saturday. We need to assess if this is an antiquated law that needs to be changed. I’m in favor of opening up all markets so that we can increase state revenue.”

To read the full article in the Oklahoma Gazette, click here.

To learn more about Oklahomans for Alcohol Law Reform, visit: www.ofalr.com.

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