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South Carolina residents push to vote on liquor store opening days

Hearings in South Carolina this week could determine whether or not residents of the US state will be able to vote to permit liquor stores to open on Sundays.

While alcohol is available for purchase on Sundays in 37 of the state’s 46 counties, liquor stores are not permitted to open on the day – by contrast, stores selling beer and wine, rather than distilled spirits, are. South Carolina is one of just seven states to still have these laws that date back to around the time of prohibition.

But a pressure group is trying to overturn these ‘Blue Laws’, as they are known. Cheers! Let South Carolina Decide claims to have 15,000 members, and is pushing for House Bill 3013, which would permit county referendums on whether or not to overturn the ban, much like how voters in the 37 counties that permit beer and wine sales voted in favour of this some years ago.

According to Cheers! Let South Carolina Decide, nearly 75% of voters are in favour of regulation wine, beer and spirits in the same way. The group also cites a study by Dr. Andrew Hanssen and Dr. Raymond D. Saue from last year which suggests that permitting liquor stores to open could generate more than US$2 million in annual state excise and sales tax revenues. Hanssen came out in favour of the change: “South Carolinians would no longer have to cross state borders into Georgia, for example, where Sunday spirits sales are allowed, and keep economic revenue at home.”

Today’s hearing won’t implement any sweeping changes across the state, but might decide whether South Carolinians will be able to vote in their individual counties on whether or not liquor stores should be permitted to open on Sundays.

Ed McMullen, former US ambassador to Switzerland and chairman of Cheers! Let South Carolina Decide, said: “As an ambassador, I know outdated laws create barriers in business and stand in the way of people investing in our state…Let’s give power to the consumers and business owners this impacts on a weekly basis.”

Related reading:

Canadian town lifts Prohibition law after 121 years

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