Why Can’t I Buy a Car or Liquor on Sundays?

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Wiggy's Liquor, August 7, 2010 in West End, Austin, TX.
Wiggy's Liquor, August 7, 2010 in West End, Austin, TX.

Hey, Texplainer: Why can’t I buy a car or liquor on Sundays?

You can’t buy liquor on Sundays and car dealerships can only be open one day over a weekend because of the last remnants of so-called “blue laws” in Texas. Blue laws have been around since before Texas or the United States were founded. Their purpose, originally, was to prohibit the sale of certain goods on Sundays, a day traditionally meant to be spent in church and resting.

Over time, the laws have changed in Texas, and most of the bans were removed in 1985, except, of course, for the restrictions on liquor and on auto dealers. The state's 2,460 liquor stores cannot sell liquor on Sunday, but after noon on Sundays, bars and restaurants can sell alcoholic drinks, and stores can sell beer and wine.

For those who want to buy their liquor earlier on Sundays, the current budget crunch may be their friend. The state Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee has before it a bill that would lift the Sunday ban on liquor; supporters say doing so could bring big bucks into the state’s coffers. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D–Houston, introduced the legislation and pointed out that 14 states have lifted their Sunday liquor bans since 2002. He said it is time Texas do the same.

The Legislative Budget Board estimated the change in the law could bring in as much as $7.4 million over the next biennium. But on Tuesday, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs disagreed with the LBB’s estimate and said the repeal would raise no significant revenue.

And while supporters of repealing the ban say that doing so would be of convenience to customers, Greg Wonsmos, president of the Texas Package Stores Association, said there has been no demand from customers to be open on Sundays. “We believe that Sunday sales would simply spread six days of sales over seven days,” he said.

There are currently no plans to change the weekend restrictions on car dealerships, and Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, likes it that way. In his view, the current system works well for both the dealers and the customers. Dealerships would feel compelled to open seven days a week if the restriction was lifted, Wolters said, and that would drive up the dealership’s costs.

“If it is more expensive for a dealership to be open seven days a week, that cost would be passed on to the customers,” Wolters said.

Bottom line: For those hoping to buy liquor before noon on Sundays, the budget crunch might provide legislators with an incentive to overturn the state's blue law. But don't belly up to the bar just yet. 

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