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Dawn Major at Sherlock's Beer and Wine Warehouse in Marietta, Ga., on Friday. When she remembered that New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday this year, she decided to stock up for the holiday's festivities. Georgia is one of the states that completely ban the Sunday sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption.
AP photo by Gene Blythe
Dawn Major at Sherlock's Beer and Wine Warehouse in Marietta, Ga., on Friday. When she remembered that New Year's Eve fell on a Sunday this year, she decided to stock up for the holiday's festivities. Georgia is one of the states that completely ban the Sunday sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption.

Stock up for New Year's reveling
Blue laws affect liquor availability on Sunday holiday

By Shannon McCaffrey
Associated Press Writer

MARIETTA, Ga. - As she lingered over a display of single malt scotches at Sherlock's Beer and Wine Warehouse, Dawn Major talked about her plans for New Year's Eve. Suddenly, she remembered one critical detail.

"Oh, it's on a Sunday, isn't it?" she said. "I guess I need to stock up."

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.

Georgia is one of several states that 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 McLung 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.

However, legislation is expected to be introduced early next year that would allow local governments and voters in Georgia to decide for themselves whether to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

There will be strong opposition from religious organizations, which hold considerable sway with social conservatives in the state's Republican-led Legislature.

"We will oppose this," said Sadie Fields, of the Georgia Christian Alliance. "There are six other days of the week where people can shop for alcohol."

Jim Tudor, who heads the Georgia Association of Convenience Store Owners, said the issue is about local control.

"People are wringing their hands as if alcohol is going to be flowing in the streets," Tudor said. "But really it's about giving local residents a choice about what they want."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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