Proposed legislation would open ABC Stores on Sunday | Eastern North Carolina Now

By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
April 14, 2023

ABC stores could start opening on Sundays and some holidays if an omnibus bill filed this month in the state Senate wins lawmakers’ approval. 

Senate Bill 490 would allow the state’s 168 local ABC boards to recommend new operating hours for the 432 stores they oversee. In addition to selling liquor on Sundays beginning at noon, the stores could be allowed to open on New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Senators Tim Moffitt (R-Henderson) and Todd Johnson (R-Cabarrus) are primary sponsors of the bill. This is not the first time the idea of opening ABC stores on Sunday has been on the table. Former Sen. Tony Rand, who represented Bladen and Cumberland counties, floated a bill to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays as early as 2009.

“Thankfully, it didn’t pass then, and our prayer is it doesn’t pass now,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “There are plenty of reasons — health-related as well as social and religious, that we need to keep ABC stores closed on Sundays.”

Creech said the Sunday sales ban means that people consume less alcohol, leading to fewer car accidents and incidents of violence. He also said the day off promotes quality family time, and gives the 2,870 employees who operate ABC stores a chance to rest and spend time with their families.

“Furthermore, prohibiting Sunday sales of liquor aligns with the religious beliefs of many people, reflecting a ‘day of rest’ or ‘day of worship’ where human vices like drinking should be avoided,” Creech added.

From a business perspective, he said keeping the stores closed for one day a week can provide a way to ensure smooth logistics and administration of liquor sales, simplifying regulations for enforcing agencies, and helping reduce the risks of exploitation, fraud and abuse.

Creech is far from alone in his opposition to Sunday ABC sales.  

In 2010, the Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts, published this recommendation: “On the basis of strong evidence of effectiveness, the Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends maintaining existing limits on the days on which alcoholic beverages are sold as one strategy for the prevention of excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.”

According to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, studies have shown a correlation between limiting days when alcohol is sold and a decrease in alcohol-related crimes. Sweden enacted a Saturday alcohol sales ban in the 1980s and noted a significant change in the number of police encounters with intoxicated persons. Researchers conducted a study on the impact of the repeal of a Sunday alcohol sales ban in New Mexico. On Sundays, alcohol-related vehicle crashes rose 29% and alcohol-related crash fatalities jumped 42% from 1990 to 2000.

A 2013 study showed that three out of five states in the US that repealed laws restricting Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages between 1990 and 2007 experienced significant increases in per capita alcohol consumption. Still another study showed that increasing the time-frame when alcohol may be sold by two or more hours increased alcohol-related harms.

“The evidence is clear, the more days and hours that alcohol is sold, the more consumption increases and the more harm it does,” Creech said. 

He expects lawmakers will try to sell the legislation on the basis that it doesn’t force the chance on stores, but simply gives them the chance to opt-in, leaving it up to local boards to decide whether they wish to do so or not. 

“The problem with that reasoning is that the negative impacts of the change will not likely be limited to the county that opted in, but will also affect surrounding areas,” Creech said. “Moreover, once it’s allowed in one county, other counties will be pressured to do the same, lest they lose tax dollars to a neighboring county that provides the service when they don’t.”

Filed on April 3, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

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