Jeremy Warren

A bill in the Texas Legislature that could repeal the ban on Sunday liquor sales caused an uproar from several liquor store owners during public testimony Tuesday. The Sunday liquor ban is an example of a blue law, or one that upholds religious standards. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, introduced the bill at the hearing, and his spokesman Jeremy Warren said the repeal of the Sunday ban would update liquor law to the alcohol regulations already in place. “Texas law designating sales of alcohol right now are incongruous,” Warren said. “You can go to a restaurant or bar and purchase alcohol, you can go to a grocery store and purchase wine or beer, but this one vestige of the blue law remains.” If passed, the repeal could provide more than $7 million in tax revenue to the struggling Texas economy, Warren said. Texas is facing an estimated $15 billion to $27 billion budget deficit. “The main inspiration is revenue creation,” Warren said. “It’s not a big revenue enhancer, but we are facing an enormous deficit right now, so $6 million here, $7 million there means a lot.” The Texas Package Store Association, which protects liquor stores’ interests, is opposed the bill. The association’s Executive Director Lance Lively said alcohol sales would not justify overhead costs of keeping a location open on a Sunday. Although the law would not require liquor stores to open on Sundays, competition from large chain stores could force smaller liquor stores to open an extra day. “Auto dealers can only stay open six days a week,” Lively said. “I ask them, ‘Why?’ They look me in the eye and say, ‘We’re not going to sell more cars if we’re open on a Sunday.’ It’s not an impulse buy. You’re not riding around on a Sunday and saying to yourself, ‘I really need some vodka,’ or ‘I really need a Chevrolet.’” Greg Wonsmos, Centennial Fine Wine and Spirits president, asked if opening liquor stores on Sundays will lead to Texans consuming more alcohol. “Is that something that we want?” he asked. “If you can’t get what you need 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, then perhaps you’ve got a larger problem that needs to be addressed.” Tom Duck, owner and operator of Star of Texas Liquor in Dripping Springs, said the repeal would especially hurt small businesses. “I have only four employees at my store,” Duck said. “If I were to open on Sunday, I would have to hire one, if not two, more employees.” The repeal would not require any additional resources from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, said agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck. The commission does not have an opinion on the bill, but is prepared to enforce further possible regulations, she said. The bill is currently waiting on a committee vote and may be heard on the Senate floor later this month.