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Wine Sales on Sunday and Blue Laws



Blue Laws originated in Connecticut in the 1600s. These religious laws concerned themselves with immoral behavior. Violators could be whipped and burned, or even killed for offenses such as playing dice, swearing, or working on the Sabbath. Originally thought to have been printed on blue paper, research has found that the term was first mentioned much later in 1781, and that its actual roots trace to "blue" meaning "overly strict", as in "bluenose".

While the Puritain religion has long since faded away, the blue laws have remained on the books and in many cases are still in effect. It was only as recently as 1994 that certain Massachusetts businesses could finally open before noon on a Sunday without having to ask permission from their local police chief. The actual wording of Massachusetts Title 20, Chapter 136 lists 55 specific types of businesses that can be open on a Sunday. They are pretty explicit entries; #51 is "The operation of a home video movie rental business." If your business isn't on that list, then if you open before noon on Sunday you could be legally charged with operating against the law.

Until 2004, it was completely illegal for a wine shop to open its doors on a Sunday. If you were out of Chardonnay and were planning on making a Chardonnay chicken dinner, too bad. Unless you wanted to take a drive up to New Hampshire or Vermont to get it.

Connecticut's laws on selling alcohol are just as archaic. According to Connecticut's Title 30 Section 91, alcohol can only be served on Christmas if it accompanies a hot meal. Bowling alleys that serve alcohol must do so in transparent glasses.

Connecticut is one of the few remaining states in the nation to retain their grip on Puritain laws, shielding their residents from the evils of drinking on Sunday. However, most people who wish to have a glass of wine with their Sunday meal don't stop this practice because of the blue laws - they simply buy the wine on Saturday or make a cross-state-line trek to get their Riesling. The states that have the blue laws are feeling the resulting pinch where it hurts them most - in their pockets.

New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have recently legalized sales on Sunday to ensure they get their cut of those sales instead of having their residents buy the liquor elsewhere. Some groups estimate that New York gained an additional 7% in alcohol tax revenue from this move. In a time of tightening budgets, that can be a substantial amount.

Even churches and anti-drunk-driving groups have stayed away from the buy-on-Sunday issue. They realize that whether or not someone buys on Sunday, it does not affect what both groups hope for - maintaining a moderate level of drinking, and not driking while driving. Consumers are vocal in wanting Sunday shopping for many reasons. Most buyers are too busy during the week to browse through their wine shop, while Sundays are the perfect day for roaming the aisles and examining the Chardonnays and Cabernets. Also, if you're throwing a last-minute party or planning a meal, grabbing those bottles of wine a few hours beforehand is often a necessity, not a convenience.

So while it is currently legal to buy wine on Sundays in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York, it is not in Connecticut. Residents there have to drive at most 1 1/2 hours to reach the nearest state line and find the marsala for that chicken dish they were hoping to make. Let's hope that legislators soon realize that enforcing archaic laws does little more than remove revenue from their pockets and add to the congestion of our highways.

Maine:
State liquor stores, open Sundays 6am - 1am. Chapter 15 - Main Liquor Laws

Vermont:
Dept of Liquor Control licensed outlets, open Sundays 10am - 2am. Title 7 - Vermont Liquor Laws

New Hampshire:
State liquor stores, open Sundays, no hours listed. Chapter 177 - New Hampshire Liquor Laws

Massachusetts:
As of 2004, legal to sell on Sundays. Chapter 138 - Massachusetts Liquor Laws

Connecticut:
Shops licensed by each town. Never open on Sundays. Title 30 - Connecticut Liquor Laws

Rhode Island:
Shops licensed by each town. Now open on Sundays. Title 3 - Rhode Island Liquor Laws

As of 2013 the only two states I know of that still have wine-related blue laws for no Sunday sales state-wide are:
Connecticut: efforts are in the works to repeal these
Minnesota: Efforts are on the way here also


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