I was surprised this week to get an email from DISCUS, the national trade group for distilled spirits producers and marketers, about a pro-Sunday sales press conference to be held at Argonaut Wine and Liquor -- of all places.
Two years ago, when I was reporting on a campaign to allow Sunday sales, I couldn’t find a single Colorado liquor store that wanted the freedom to sell booze on Sunday. In fact, Applejack President Jim Shpall told me then that any campaign to change the blue laws in this state was really a plot by DISCUS to get alcohol into grocery stores and chains. Once liquor stores were open on Sunday, the chain grocers would yell that they’re losing Sunday 3.2 beer sales and should be therefore allowed to sell liquor.
That argument, along with not wanting to give up their Sunday off, has long been the backbone of the Colorado liquor lobby’s opposition to Sunday sales. But it looks like they’ve given up the fight. S.B. 82 has already passed the Senate and is making its way through the House, having passed in the finance committee this morning.
At today’s press conference, the talking points were that Sunday sales would bring consumer convenience, an additional $6 million in annual tax revenue, and give small business more freedom. Both Jeanne McEvoy of Aspen Leaf Liquor in Loveland and Dennis Dinsmore of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins said they had finally come to realize that their customers want Sunday sales.
After his speech, Dinsmore said he’s been fighting Sunday sales for so long that it was hard to stop. He doesn’t know if this will open Pandora’s box and lead to full-strength wine and beer in grocery stores – which he fears would be the independent liquor store’s demise. Instead, his hope is that by giving consumers the convenience of Sunday sales, it will be harder for grocery stores to move into his turf because the customer will already be content.
Not all liquor store owners share his optimism.
Among the hundreds missing from the media event was Bonnie Brae Wine and Liquor Mart owner Conrad J. Ziegler, who says he doesn’t want to work on Sundays and thinks alcohol should be regulated. He doesn’t even approve of bars being opened on Sunday. He says the sudden support of Sunday sales is the compromise liquor stores are making with the legislature – to give the public the convenience that the lawmakers, newspapers and grocery stores seem so concerned about of late. The idea is: “We’re going to offer convenience, and don’t bother us anymore about the grocery stores," he adds.
“I don’t believe anybody really wants to be open on Sunday in our business,” he says. “Seven days a week just means more expenses. We’re not going to sell any more.” -- Jessica Centers