Traditionally, liquor stores throughout the state of Washington have been a Monday through Saturday affair. However, House Bill 2131 is threatening to change that tradition, allowing liquor stores to open their doors for Sunday sales.
Rep. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger) explained that the bill, which was passed by the Washington State House of Representatives last week and is currently in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would create a pilot program that would allow 20 state-run liquor stores to open for Sunday sales.
According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, there are currently 27 states that allow Sunday liquor sales, including Oregon. Lisa Hawkins, a spokesperson for the council, said many states see Sunday sales as a way to help generate more state tax revenue.
Chandler said he is not convinced that over time Sunday sales would help raise more money. He said studies done in Oregon have found that although people are making purchases on Sunday, Saturday sales have fallen. He explained that people who would regularly purchase liquor on Saturday evening are now simply waiting to make the purchase on Sunday.
"It was a wash," Chandler said.
Chandler said the pilot program would allow stores in the largest markets in the state to remain open on Sunday. He noted that after a set amount of time the state would go back and evaluate those stores to see if Sunday sales are proving to be successful.
Chandler, who voted against the bill in the house, said he believes Sunday sales will mean an increase in the cost of operations for many stores, noting that stores are going to have to pay employees to man the stores an extra day each week.
Theresa Hancock, owner of the Funny Farm, which serves as the Sunnyside liquor store, explained that if the bill passes she won't necessarily be directly affected. She said the bill would give her the option, as the owner of a contract liquor store, to stay open on Sundays, but it's not an option she feels she would ever take advantage of.
The Funny Farm, like Spirits Etc. in Grandview, is one of 155 contract liquor stores in the state. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, contract stores operate under contract with the state. Hancock explained that as a private business owner she is still responsible for everything from paying the rent to labor costs. State run liquor stores are operated by the state with state employees. According to the liquor control board, state run stores service more populated areas in the state.
Hancock said the nearest state run liquor stores are located in Yakima and the Tri-Cities.
As a contract store, Hancock said she would be given the option to open for Sunday sales.
"Personally, I object to Sunday sales," Hancock said.
She said she feels Sunday should be a day of rest for everyone. She also pointed out that being open on Sunday would mean an increase in her labor and overhead costs, but not necessarily an increase in her sales.
"I think they could learn from Oregon without changing our liquor laws," Hancock said.
Debbie Tucker, owner of Spirits Etc. in Grandview, echoed Hancock's sentiments, noting that if the bill passes and she is given the opportunity to stay open on Sunday, she most likely wouldn't do it.
"It's the one day I get to not think about this stuff," Tucker said of Sundays.
She said as a business owner with a family, Sunday is her day to get things done for her household, including the weekly shopping.
"I just don't think it's a good idea," she said.
Chandler, who originally supported the bill, said he did so because it had a companion bill that would have given a share of the revenue from liquor sales to rural counties. He said when the companion bill was killed, HB 2131 lost his support.
Chandler said the Sunday sales bill is currently in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
"It has a ways to go," he said.
. Elena Olmstead can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org