Tupelo’s council-level discussion about selling beer and light-wine on Sunday should conclude tonight with a vote legalizing hours-restricted Sunday sales.
A split vote is certain, reflecting our culture’s long-term divisions about alcohol consumption and legal sale.
Many opponents of Sunday sales take their positions based on religious and moral convictions against all alcohol consumption or against Sunday sales on sabbatarian grounds. On the other side, many moral and religious people consume alcohol responsibly and don’t object to Sunday sales.
The issues, especially with Board of Aldermen approval of Sunday alcohol in Starkville (pending state approval), and expansion of sales hours in Columbus and Aberdeen, relate to full economic competitiveness.
Economic and business considerations have driven repeal of almost all “blue laws,” once widespread, against certain economic activities on Sunday, the Christian sabbath.
Most other blue laws disappeared without a whimper from the broader culture because, as a matter of convenience, people want to shop for clothing, groceries, tires, guns, cars, prescription drugs, and many other products seven days a week – in some cases 24-7.
Major retail and commercial centers like Tupelo do a brisk Sunday business for hundreds of items formerly deemed non-essential and banned by blue laws.
Sunday sales have been discussed for decades in Tupelo, never gaining strength for approval, but many Mississippi municipalities allow Sunday sales of beer, wine and/or liquor by the drink, without significant problems. Package sales – liquor by the bottle from retail stores – are prohibited statewide as in 13 other states. Tupelo’s ordinance wouldn’t change anything related to liquor sales.
Beer and light wine sales fall within reasonable economic persuasion: profitability and convenience. Hotels and restaurants would be helped with the business possibility. Special events would make themselves more competitive with legal Sunday sales, as they individually choose. Yet the proposal is incremental and restrained; it doesn’t seek full alcohol sales, and it allows beer and light wine sales only from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Change is all around us on the issue. Arkansas in March became the 14th state since 2002 to erase its Sunday sales ban. Arkansas law allows restaurants and other on-premise establishments to serve alcohol on Sundays between 10 a.m. and midnight – an extension of up to four hours.
The key word in legal Sunday sales is “allow.” No business would be compelled to sell alcohol on Sunday. That would be a matter of conscience and choice for owners and individual businesses, as well as for customers in choosing which businesses to patronize.
Giving businesses and individuals that choice on Sundays in Tupelo would be a reasonable and defensible change.
NEMS Daily Journal