D.C. To End Sunday Liquor Ban?

In D.C. politics, one month can make all the difference. At the end of April, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham said that he opposed Sunday sales of liquor in the District of Columbia, but just about one month later he seems to have changed his mind. Last week Graham introduced a proposal that would overhaul the District’s alcohol rules, including doing away with the ban on Sunday liquor sales.

If this proposal is approved, Class A licensees in D.C. — which includes liquor stores and wholesalers selling beer, wine, and liquor — will be allowed to operate on Sundays. Note that the proposal would allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays, not force them to do so.

While some residents oppose Sunday sales for safety reasons, it might come as a surprise that the most vocal opponents are liquor store owners themselves. They claim that Sundays are the only day off they get each week and that the cost of staying open would not be made up by sales on that day. Of course, as I said, removing the ban doesn’t mean they have to stay open on Sunday.

When confronted with the argument that they can always continue to remain closed on Sundays, owners claim that they would be forced to operate seven days a week to keep up with the competition and not lose customers to other stores. While that might be true, it is no reason to retain an archaic and pointless ban on shops that want to stay open on Sundays and could turn a profit on that day.

There are numerous methods store owners can employ to win customers over their competitors apart from the hours of operation. Sure, if they choose to remain closed on Sunday, their customers might find a new shop to purchase liquor from, but they could win back business by having a better selection of products, cleaner store, friendlier and more knowledgeable employees, and, of course, they could always reduce their prices. If prices at liquor store A that is closed on Sunday are significantly less than liquor store B that is open seven days a week, you can bet that people will make sure to buy their booze from liquor store A on Saturday.

Whenever the law changes, it is inevitable that some will benefit and some will lose — especially those already operating in the market who have organized their business around the status quo. However, the status quo is never guaranteed. Furthermore, the inconvenience of a few businesses is no reason to maintain an archaic ban on Sunday sales when consumers want change.