By SHANNON McCAFFREY Associated Press Writer
MARIETTA, Ga. — With both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve falling on a Sunday this year, revelers in many states will have to stock up a day early if they want to celebrate at home by raising a glass of champagne or some well-aged scotch.
Many states still have Sunday “blue laws” that restrict the sale of alcohol on the Sabbath at liquor stores and supermarkets.
Georgia, Connecticut and Indiana ban the Sunday sale of any alcohol for off-premises consumption. Other states, such as Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah, permit the sale of only weaker, low-alcohol beer on Sundays. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas and South Carolina are among the states that allow local communities to make their own Sunday rules.
“It’s a total pain,” said 54-year-old Kent Brooks of Alpharetta, in suburban Atlanta. “I hate being told what I can and can’t do by the government. They should keep their nose out of my happy-hour habits.”
In most places around the country, restaurants and bars can serve alcohol on Sundays, though some are required by local ordinances to close up at midnight.
In recent weeks some local governments, such as the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee, have passed one-time exemptions so that bars and restaurants will not have to hustle customers out the door before the closing strains of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Beer, wine and liquor store owners complain that Sunday restrictions are hurting sales on what is typically their busiest day of the year, New Year’s Eve. Christmas Eve is often a close second.
In Minnesota, which permits the sale of only low-alcohol beer on Sundays, a spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty downplayed the inconvenience. Party hosts will simply have to buy their alcohol ahead of time _ “just like every Super Bowl Sunday,” Brian McClung said.
In some places, the Sunday liquor laws have been loosened for the holidays. In Omaha, Neb., the City Council voted to allow stores to begin selling beer and wine as early as 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Normally, the stores there do not open until noon.
Some say it is hypocritical to allow a restaurant or bar to serve a glass of wine when a liquor store nearby cannot sell a bottle of it. They also argue that someone drinking in a bar is more apt to drive drunk then someone having a cocktail at home. Mothers Against Drunk Driving takes no position on Sunday sales legislation.
Blue laws date to the colonial era and supposedly got their name from the blue paper they were printed on. Many states have scaled back or eliminated the laws. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said that in the past three years alone, 12 states have loosened their laws to permit the Sunday sale of liquor.
Georgia is one of the few holdouts in the Bible Belt. Each Sunday, grocery store beer coolers remain dark, and liquor stores stay shut.