Ringing in Sunday booze sales

Dateline: Tue 19 Aug 2008

Masson's Blog has an insightful and amusing post -- a twofer -- on Hoosiers for Beverage Choice, those bold progressives who are pushing Indiana to get with 35 states and permit alcohol sales on Sunday. More of us can get behind that bandwagon, which is only about 75 years overdue.

Our "blue laws" regulating Sunday sales in the U.S. are quite a history lesson, stretching back to the Puritans and long before. Historically, some European countries refused to allow any commerce on Sundays. That was God's day, and you couldn't sell a pot or swallow a brew. Naturally the Puritans brought this part of the Old Country with them.

Indiana has its identity strongly tied up in this crusade. During the 1920s, 90 of our 92 counties had active members of the Ku Klux Klan -- and the KKK, lo and behold, was heavily aligned with the Prohibition party, if not synonymous. Hence getting rid of booze was a No. 1 Klan goal. (This dovetailed nicely with the Klan's desire to eliminate Catholics as well, since Papists imbibed on Sundays at Mass and in general -- being mostly immigrants -- were more free-spirited about alcohol than native-born Methodists, etc.).

Winona Lake, home of the great evangelist Billy Sunday, became the national headquarters for the Prohibition Party -- this was after prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. Indiana thus remained an anti-booze holdout, and Winona Lake remains a campgrounds for various evangelical Christian groups to meet. When I was at the Star, the Women's Christian Temperance Union regularly held their national meetings in the state -- where else?

How we have endured a form of prohibition while allowing gambling to make huge inroads is a bit of a mystery. One explanation might be less churchy and more about the lobbying power of the package liquor industry, which has enjoyed a monopoly on on the sale of cold beer. To quote Hoosiers for Beverage Change:

"Indiana is the only state that discriminates against drug, grocery and convenience store customers by limiting the sale of cold beer to a single segment of the industry (package liquor stores)."

But now that's all going to go by the roadside, maybe. Certainly HBC is urging all of you to contact your legislators, etc.

One thing is for sure: there's a national push behind this, as evidenced by publication of scholarly research on this topic in June by several Hoosier newspapers. The scholar is David Hanson of State University of New York, and I owe him thanks for some of the above info.

Also check out Masson's blog:

http://www.masson.us/blog/

and

http://www.beveragechoices.com/

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