Colorado Lawmakers Approve Sunday Liquor Sales

Published October 8, 2008

Colorado liquor stores are now allowed to sell beer, wine, and other spirits on Sundays, ending a sales ban that had been in force since Prohibition days.

The lifting of the ban is the result of Senate Bill 82, effective July 1.

“Earlier this year Colorado became the 35th state to pass a law allowing Sunday spirits sales—the latest in a growing trend of states modernizing archaic alcohol laws across the country,” said Ben Jenkins, communications director of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Since 2002, 13 states, including Colorado, have passed Sunday sales laws.”

Gov. Bill Ritter (D) signed the bill on April 14, effectively ending a 75-year prohibition against Sunday liquor sales in Colorado.

“This is a law whose time has finally come,” Ritter said in signing the bill. “The people of Colorado want the conveniences, options, and choices this law will bring [to the state]. Let’s be clear, this does not mean we will be any less vigilant in our efforts to fight against underage drinking, DUI, and alcohol abuse.”

Consumers, Government Benefit

Jenkins said Colorado was one of only 16 states still prohibiting Sunday alcohol sales, a restriction imposed after the repeal of national Prohibition in the 1930s.

“Rep. Cheri Jahn [D-Wheat Ridge], Sen. Jennifer Veiga [D-Denver], and local retailers in favor of Sunday openings successfully called on the legislature to make this change,” Jenkins said. “Now Colorado joins the neighboring states of Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming in allowing Sunday spirits sales.”

Not only will consumers in Colorado be permitted to buy regular beer and wine on Sunday, instead of just low-alcohol beer, but the state government should benefit as well. State budget officials in July projected an extra $6 million in state revenues annually.

Consumers Reign

Some liquor stores fought against being open on Sunday, citing the need for a “day of rest” for their employees. But the consumer is still king, according to Penn R. Pfiffner of the Independence Institute in Golden, Colorado.

“I was glad to see this pass,” said Pfiffner, director of the fiscal policy center at the institute. “Under the new, more liberal shopping laws, customers will enjoy greater convenience to shop on their own schedule. No one is forcing retailers to open on Sundays, and a few will not. The rest will feel compelled to respond to consumer demand. In a free market, consumers are sovereign. That’s a good thing!”

Independence Institute President Jon Caldara said, “Grocery stores have become their own little urban centers thanks to their competitive drive. Pharmacies, banks, travel agents, bakeries, delis, florists, and even massages are all offered in one store, to use or ignore at your whim. So why not liquor?”

John W. Skorburg ([email protected]) is a visiting lecturer in economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and associate editor of Budget and Tax News.