Sunday Alcohol Sales (Part 1)

Sunday Alcohol SalesReserving Sunday as a day of rest and religious observance has been part of the country’s legislative history dating back to the colonial era. Prohibition of Sunday alcohol sales led the list of blue laws.

Blue laws, sometimes referred to as Sunday closing laws, prohibit certain commercial activities on Sundays. The Puritans had enacted laws in the 1600s to control morality, and gambling and alcohol consumption were certainly included on that list. More recently, the push by some of the big box retailers to get a head start on the Christmas shopping season by opening on Thanksgiving didn’t get the green light in three states because of blue laws.

Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts have blue laws that prohibited large super markets, big box stores, and department stores from opening on Thanksgiving, according to Fox News “Decades-old ‘blue laws’ ban Thanksgiving Day shopping in 3 states.

Repealing Blue Laws

You couldn’t Christmas shop on Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, but that state has repealed its blue laws banning Sunday sales of alcohol and cars.

Repealing blue laws regarding restricting Sunday alcohol sales has been the focus of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). There are now 38 states that permit Sunday retail sales of spirits products. Of those, 18 allow off-premise alcohol sales statewide, 16 allow local government options regarding Sunday alcohol sales, and four allow sales only in certain geographic / demographic areas.

The states that current prohibit Sunday alcohol sales include: Alabama, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Of the 38 allowing at least some form of off-premise alcohol sales, 16 of those repealed their blue laws only in the last dozen years.

The argument DISCUS makes for allowing Sunday alcohol sales aligns with the shopping habits of the primary demographic for alcohol purchases: 35 to 54 year olds. For this demographic, Sunday is the second most important shopping day of the week. DISCUS also cites the increase of spending on Sundays with a 21 percent increase in total grocery purchases compared to other days of the week. Permitting Sunday alcohol sales provides customers with convenience and a boost in revenues to the state.

(Stay tuned for Sunday Alcohol Sales, Part 2)


  1. […] Earlier this week, we began looking at states’ blue laws and their impact on the ability (or inability) to purchase off-premise alcohol on a Sunday. (See Sunday Alcohol Sales, Part 1.) […]