OLYMPIA – Lawmakers are moving toward repealing the state’s long-standing prohibition of Sunday liquor sales in an effort to pad the state’s coffers.
Under the legislation, at least 20 of the 161 state-owned liquor stores could sell on Sunday. Contract liquor stores – usually operated out of other businesses in rural areas – would also be allowed to open.
Stores would be chosen based on criteria including how much liquor they sell and their location, said Bob Burdick, spokesman for the state’s Liquor Control Board.
The board estimates the additional selling day would generate another $7.3 million for the state’s general fund and $2.2 million for local governments.
The measure’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Grant said that besides being archaic, the ban on Sunday sales limits the business of small wineries, which typically sell their bottles in liquor stores instead of larger grocery stores.
“I think it’s time we got into the real world,” said Grant, D-Walla Walla.
The bill passed the House 62-34 Wednesday. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, is sponsoring a similar version in the Senate.
Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, opposed the measure, saying it seems to benefit alcohol companies more than the state.
Condotta, who represents a region that gets flush with tourists, said a Sunday without liquor sales gives people a day to cool down from a weekend of partying.
“I’m not sure if socially or fiscally this has any advantage, and it may create more of a problem,” he said.
The nation’s distillery representatives certainly aren’t objecting to the change.
Thirty-two states already allow liquor sales on Sunday, said Lisa Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Neighboring Oregon approved Sunday sales in 2002, and the next year liquor sales increased 14 percent. The same year, states without Sunday openings saw only a 4 percent increase, according to the council.
“Consumer buying habits have changed and Sunday is now the second busiest shopping day of the week,” Hawkins said. “We believe consumers should have the same access to all beer, wine and spirit products.”
But convenience and neighborhood store owners argue the bills would give liquor stores another advantage. They say because the state can buy wine directly from winemakers, it’s able to sell it at a lower price.
“The state already has leverage over us by buying from the manufacturers,” said Victor Boulos, who manages eight convenience stores in Whatcom County. “This would affect our business by taking those additional (Sunday wine) sales away.”
In response to concerns, the Liquor Control Board in January raised the price of the wine it sells by 70 cents to $3 per bottle.
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