Your drive home from church Sunday could soon include a trip to the liquor store. State Representative Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, filed House Bill 421 Jan. 9, which would allow liquor stores to sell distilled spirits on Sundays.
Currently only beer and wine can be sold on Sundays. Beer and wine retailers are allowed to sell up to 115 hours per week, while distilled spirits retailers are only allowed to stay open up to 66 hours per week.
"Sunday is the largest day consumers shop," Thompson said. "This is the last blue law we have on the books in Texas and there's no reason it shouldn't be lifted."
Currently, distilled spirits can be purchased Sundays at only restaurants and bars.
"The real issue is allowing consumers to purchase distilled spirits and go home, rather than have them drinking somewhere, then getting behind the wheel and going home," Thompson said. "It's going to create a safer highway and streets because instead of drinking and driving home, they can make their purchase and go home."
But many local liquor stores are opposed to the bill.
"I'm against the bill because I feel our people need a day off and it will increase our operational expenses." Austin Keith, owner of Pinkie's chain of liquor stores, based in Odessa, and president of the Texas Package Stores Association in Austin, which has been representing the Texas liquor store industry since 1947, said.
"All it will do is spread six days worth of sales over seven days," Pinkie's Marketing Director Kel Becker said. "The reason this bill is being put forward is because it's a tax revenue increase bill. It simply will not increase revenues. If we stay open the extended hours and Sunday, we will end up losing profit."
But Thompson said there is a simple solution -- don't open on Sundays.
"They have a choice," Thompson said. "I know there is an argument that you are forcing people to be open Sundays, but this bill does not force anyone to be open. Just like other stores have a choice -- they can choose to open on Sunday or close. "
However, Keith said if one liquor store decides to open, they will have to stay open Sundays to compete for business.
"The bill advocates we will be open on Sundays and wants to extend our hours of operation by one hour earlier and one hour later Monday through Saturday," Keith said. "We have taken ballots and across the state, package store owners are against Sunday sales of distilled spirits. That's their one day off and if this passes, those people would be opening seven days a week. I think about those people, not just myself."
"It will probably take business away from the bar and restaurant part of our business," Becker added. "Those people are our customers also and we just feel like that accommodates anyone who wants to have a drink on Sunday who doesn't already have it at their house. They have an outlet to go consume their beverage of choice."
Scott Cooksey, owner of Kari's and Western Drug liquor stores in Odessa, said he is also against the bill because of the increased cost to operate for the extra hours.
"We're open six days a week, eleven hours a day and I enjoy a day off since I've got kids," Cooksey said. "It's hard to get people to work seven days a week and most people buy on Saturday in my experience. Then beer and wine you can get on Sundays. I don't know who would be for it. If we're the Texas package stores, and we're a group of mom-and-pop stores and we're against it and we probably would gain some, who would gain more? Probably the sales tax people and the state of Texas are looking for money."
Thompson estimates the state could stand to gain about $8 million in new revenue by expanding the hours of liquor stores, but she maintains that isn't the focus of the bill.
"That's a very small issue of the whole bill," Thompson said. "Beer and wine can be purchased on Sunday without going to a bar or restaurant. It seems to me that the same opportunity should be available to all citizens who want to drink and carry it home."