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Does legalising Sunday alcohol sales benefit stores?

The legalisation of Sunday alcohol sales in Connecticut neither benefitted nor damaged beer sales at liquor stores and supermarkets in the long term, according to a recent study from the University of Connecticut (UConn).

In 2012, Connecticut’s Sunday ‘blue law’ was repealed, enabling liquor stores to trade on the seventh day of the week, and permitting grocery stores that already sold beer to do so on Sundays (grocery stores in Connecticut cannot sell wine and efforts to legalise sales have fallen through). Prior to this, the state had some of the harshest laws surrounding booze in the US, a legacy of Prohibition.

At the time, according to the study (which was published in the Journal of Wine Economics), there were concerns from liquor store owners that if residents of the state were able to buy beer from grocery stores as part of their Sunday food shop, their own sales would be dented as consumers would not feel the need to pay a visit to liquor store to source their booze.

Examining data from 2004 to 2021, the researchers looked at openings, sales and closures for liquor and grocery stores in the state.

Cristina Connolly, assistant professor of agriculture and resource economics in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, co-authored the study. She noted that, compared to other states that got rid of their blue laws, Connecticut saw a slight bounce in beer sales at grocery stores and liquor stores in 2012, but the trend did not last.

“There was this kind of novelty of the new policy. But it then evened out after about a month, and for the rest of the year, we did not see a difference,” Connolly noted, adding that this indicated that this indicated that “there wasn’t a substitution toward buying beer” at grocery stores.

As for openings and closures, there was a slight reduction in the number of grocery stores and a slight increase in the number of liquor stores over the time period. The researchers suggested that in both cases this was likely independent of the legalisation of Sunday alcohol sales, but that it indicated that permitting supermarkets to sell beer on Sundays was not hurting liquor stores either.

“Proposals to liberalise alcohol sales are popular with consumers,” the study concluded, suggesting that “it is possible to repeal Sunday blue law restrictions without negatively impacting liquor (or grocery) stores.”

Related reading:

South Carolina residents push to vote on liquor store opening days

Canadian town lifts Prohibition law after 121 years

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