Proposed bill aims to lift blue law on Sunday liquor sales

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Jan. 14, 2013 at 7 p.m.
Updated Jan. 14, 2013 at 7:15 p.m.

A Houston legislator wants the state to approve the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Harris County Democrat, filed House Bill 421 last week to lift the blue law restrictions on Sunday liquor sales. The proposed law would open sales from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday and extend hours Monday through Saturday to 9 a.m. through 10 p.m.

However, Victoria's religious leaders say Sunday is the time for God and family, not tequila and whiskey.

Bobby Rivera, pastor of Covenant Life Center, said anytime the time frame for alcohol sales is minimized, it's good for the church and the family.

"What can be bought today can be bought tomorrow," Rivera said. "If there's one day a week a family can come together, it's a Sunday."

In Texas, liquor can be purchased Sunday only for on-premise consumption in places such as bars or restaurants. Beer and wine can be purchased for both on and off-premise consumption after noon Sunday.

Rivera said alcohol is a pleasure, not a priority, and has created isolation between God and the family.

"It has a way of interrupting or getting the family off track with what really matters," he said.

Rivera wonders how money spent on alcohol could be put to better use.

"If people were to make that contribution to any church in their local community, we could feed the poor, send missionaries out," Rivera said. "Think of how many more families we could feed if someone would get their priorities in place."

Pastor Tim Williams, of Northside Baptist Church, said the issue hinges on money.

"I can understand that she's (Thompson) thinking of lost sales revenue and tax revenue, but I don't see a lot of people upset that those laws are there or that they can't buy liquor on Sundays," Williams said.

He said there is not a "real need" to lift the ban.

"Nobody comes to their pastor talking about the wonders of being able to drink alcohol," Williams said. "It's usually, 'I have a problem, help me.'"

The issue came up in the previous legislative session under Senate Bill 595. It died in committee.

Greg Reyes, owner of Greg Liquors on Sam Houston Drive, said the blue law currently in place is outdated.

"The store owner should be allowed to choose what days or what hours to work," Reyes said. "It's constraining that liquor stores are made to open at 10 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. when no other retail stores are that constrained."

He said the county's population growth from the oil and gas discoveries is bringing in new clientele from across the country who want to purchase alcohol Sunday.

"There are so many other parts of the country where if you wish to purchase some liquor on a Sunday, they allow it," Reyes said.

Barbara Del La Rosa, manager of Western Beverages on North Navarro Street, said the business is the longest standing liquor store in Victoria, operating for 40 years.

Del La Rosa said she would probably support the bill, especially because it is in her line of business.

"I want us to survive and keep our vision of being the best liquor retailer in Victoria," she said.



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