For the first time in years, many Washington residents will be able to head down to their local liquor store and buy booze on Sunday.
A new state law that takes effect Sunday allows all 158 liquor stores that operate under contracts with the state to open on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The law also allows up to 20 of the 161 state-owned liquor stores to open on Sundays, but that won’t take effect until September.
Keith Peterson, owner of Greenacres Liquor Store at 18309 E. Appleway, will open this Sunday. He said he loses business on Sundays to liquor stores nearby in Idaho.
“I do have customers who have told me they’ve been going over there,” Peterson said.
The Distilled Spirits Council in Washington, D.C., which lobbied for the bill, applauded the change in a news release Thursday. The council said Washington is the 33rd state to permit Sunday liquor sales.
“For years, Washington consumers have been able to purchase beer and wine on Sunday, while the sale of spirits in its state-run system remained prohibited,” council President Peter Cressy said in the release. “Consumers and tourists will no longer be inconvenienced by this Prohibition-Era Blue Law.”
Not all stores have chosen to open on Sundays. Jan Piger, who works at the contract store at 15007 E. Trent, said that location will remain closed on Sundays because six days a week is enough.
“It’s just going to be the people who would normally come on Saturdays. And we would have to pay (additional) help,” said Piger, whose son owns the store. “We just decided we weren’t going to do it.”
But Sharron Staley, who owns the Springdale Grocery and Hardware store northwest of Spokane, said she thinks selling liquor on Sundays will give her customers more flexibility.
“Parties, family get-togethers, barbecues, they’re always going on on the weekends,” Staley said. “I can think of a couple of family barbecues where we wanted to have something, but were unable to get something.”
Most contract stores are in smaller communities, like Springdale, and are a section of a larger grocery store, said Pam Madson, senior policy analyst with the Washington State Liquor Control Board. She said the 20 state-owned stores that will begin selling liquor in September have not been selected yet.
Two industry organizations – the Washington Food Industry and the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores – opposed the law, saying allowing liquor sales on Sundays expands an unfair competitive advantage that state-controlled stores already have with wine sales.
State liquor stores are able to undercut private stores’ wine prices due to restrictions in how the private stores purchase wine, said Matt Yorkston, a past president of the association of neighborhood stores.
“For us to compete with them, we would have to drop our margins almost down to cost,” Yorkston said. “It’s the competition between public and private, and it shouldn’t be that way.”