Earlier Alcohol Sales on Sundays

Earlier Alcohol Sales on SundayMassachusetts has been changing some of its laws regarding alcohol sales, and the latest change includes earlier alcohol sales on Sundays. The latest bill will allow liquor stores to open at 10:00 a.m. rather than noon on Sundays.

The bill (Bill H.228) is a straightforward change in language: “Paragraph 52 of section 6 of chapter 136 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in line 168, the words ‘12:00 noon’ and inserting in place thereof the following words: – 10:00 a.m.”

As simple as that sounds, this change has been on the legislative floor since January 2013, and was finally signed by Governor Deval Patrick on July 23, 2014.

Benefit of Earlier Sunday Alcohol Sales

The passage of this bill especially benefits those liquor stores that are near borders with either Rhode Island or New Hampshire. Consumers with a desire to shop earlier on a Sunday will keep their spending dollars in the commonwealth.

Vice President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Bill Rennie, is quoted in Boston Magazine, saying, “We are very pleased that the bill is now passed and the governor signed it into law. We have long thought the decision on store hours on a Sunday, if we are going to have them open, should be left up to the discretion of the owner and the market. If customers are going to shop earlier in the morning, so be it.” (“Massachusetts Liquor Stores Can Soon Sell Alcohol Before Noon on Sundays.”)

Rennie’s contention is that the move helps level the playing field and be competitive in the border areas with New Hampshire and Rhode Island. This benefit was at the heart of the argument presented by State Representative Elizabeth Poirier (North Attleborough), one of the bill’s petitioners.

For those hoping to shop for their tailgate and game-day parties earlier on Sundays, the new law won’t be in effect in time for the start of the season. Without an emergency preamble, the bill will take effect in 90 days, so earlier Sunday alcohol sales will likely begin in time for Week 8 of the NFL season when the Chicago Bears show up to play the New England Patriots.

Allowing earlier alcohol sales on Sundays is another step away from the centuries-old “blue laws” that prohibited any retail activity on Sunday. Massachusetts first allowed Sunday alcohol sales in 2003. (See also “Sunday Alcohol Sales.”)