Blue laws dying: Palm Beach County Florida only bans sales 5am-7am Sunday
County will no longer ban Sunday morning liquor sales
By Pat Beall, Deana Poole
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
WEST PALM BEACH ? Whether it's from a bar tap at a watering hole or from shelves at the grocery store, alcohol will soon be available in unincorporated areas of Palm Beach County on Sunday mornings.
County commissioners Tuesday ended an alcohol prohibition that dates back at least 30 years ? with little discussion or a single voice of opposition.
Call it a sign of the times, a result of society's 24-7 lifestyle. The so-called "Blue Laws," which were intended to keep Sundays as a day for worship and family, are being lifted across the country.
In the past three years, 12 states have repealed similar bans, according to the Washington-based Distilled Spirits Council, a trade group that lobbies governments on behalf of alcohol companies. Martin County and Stuart did away with the prohibition in 2001.
In Palm Beach County, the initiative started last year at Palm Beach International Airport. The food and beverage provider said tourists were left with a bad impression when they couldn't toss one back before catching a flight on Sunday mornings. The Libertarian Party pushed for the commission to change the rules everywhere.
The commission voted unanimously this year to allow alcohol to be sold and consumed from 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday ? only at the airport's five bars.
As a result of Tuesday's vote, alcohol can be bought and sold 22 hours a day, every day, in unincorporated areas. Alcohol sales are prohibited only from 5 to 7 a.m.
"The idea is to make people go home at least for a while," a county official said.
Raja Kahn got an early heads-up on the commission's vote. Customers told him.
"I already had someone run in today telling me we were going to have to be open all day Sunday," said Kahn, assistant manager for liquor sales at Albertsons on Military Trail.
Residents living in any of the county's 37 municipalities are out of luck. Nothing changes for stores, bars and restaurants.
"We were hoping to have some kind of uniformity," said County Administrator Bob Weisman, who polled different towns to see if they might adopt the county's new rules.
The change won't go into effect for about three weeks. Nevertheless, its passage has infuriated the Florida chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"That is just absolutely ludicrous that there would be those type of hours available for the sale of alcohol," said Andy Hindman, executive director of the statewide organization.
Even among the growing number of cities and counties now loosening regulations on Sunday liquor sales, the county's 22-hour-a-day sales policy stands out as "extremely liberal," Hindman said. "It is just appalling."
Inside the Icebox, a tiny bar sitting catty-corner from the airport, the handful of Tuesday afternoon customers expressed mixed feelings about the lengthened hours.
"Last year, the Miami game," said Timothy Matschneri, shaking his head. It started at 1 p.m., leaving him to squeeze a quick beer run between the noon start of alcohol sales and kickoff. But nursing his cocktail, Matschneri said a 22-hour-a-day window of sales was over the top.
"That's just crazy," he said.
On the other side of the oval bar, Andrea Smith said pulling night shifts inverts her social life. A daytime drink is the equivalent of an after-hours cocktail for people working 9 to 5.
Smith didn't endorse the extra hours. A nurse at a local hospital, she said the night shift also offered a look at where people can wind up after a night of hard drinking.
"I think a lot of places stay open too long already," she said.
Publix Super Markets, which has 62 stores in Palm Beach County, maintains a neutral stance on such laws. However, the Lakeland-based chain will automatically roll back its own hours for alcohol sales in unincorporated areas of the county when the relaxed hours take effect. Customers with too-busy schedules expect it, spokeswoman Anne Kendrick said.
"If you are doing your weekly shopping on a Sunday morning and part of that includes a bottle of wine to serve at a party the following Saturday, well, that's part of customer convenience," she said.
The only beverages in Melissa Martin's Albertsons shopping cart Tuesday afternoon were bottles of water. But the West Palm Beach resident echoed Kendrick's line of thinking.
"What if you want to go on a Sunday picnic?" she said. "You should be able to go shopping early Sunday morning if you can't make it on Saturday night."