Under the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, which repealed nationwide Prohibition, each state sets its own policies for the distribution and sale of alcohol -- and do they ever.
The result is a thoroughly mixed case. The 50 states' systems and regulations wander all over the lot, ranging from wide open to tightly capped, with North Carolina leaning toward the latter category. Now there's a move here to pour it on, liquorwise. A bill in the state Senate would allow liquor stores, by county option, to sell booze on Sundays.
Here's hoping that sober heads in the legislature put a cork in the bill. This change is unneeded and undesirable.
I write from neither a prohibitionist point of view nor as a fan of North Carolina's daffy system of government-run liquor stores supplied from a state warehouse. But you don't have to oppose alcohol sales in general to appreciate the case for retaining some of the traditional limits.
Sunday-sales bans, after all, are rooted in our history. They harken back to the early days of colonial settlement, particularly in New England, where Puritan values became embedded in state laws (not always a good thing, granted). They reflect also the widespread anti-alcohol impulse that arose in the 19th century as a result of the excesses of an alcohol-fueled society (and which in 1919 led to national Prohibition). And they are in harmony with religious values, particularly those of the conservative Protestants long predominant in our state. So why change?
Money, say state Sen. Tony Rand and liquor industry lobbyists. There's an estimated $5.5 million in annual tax revenue to be collected if Sunday sales at ABC stores could be added to the current six-day total. Plus, people today, living and working on notably odd schedules, are inconvenienced when the liquor store doors are closed.
Well, maybe. But more tax revenue assumes more consumption, which either would happen — and is that a good thing? — or wouldn't — are folks really likely to buy more booze per week if they can shop on an additional day? As for the lifestyle issue, are Sunday closing such a hardship? You'd think that both casual and serious drinkers could satisfy their thirst for buying bottles of whiskey, vodka or gin over six days.
And yes, rest up on the seventh, along with the ABC employees. I'd like to see more, not fewer, workers be able to do the same, rather than labor in big box stores or in franchised eateries.
So here's to Chick-fil-A (a praiseworthy holdout to seven-days-a-week workstyles) and, at least for now, North Carolina's never-on-Sunday liquor stores.