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PENNSYLVANIA Two-year test of Sunday liquor sales begins



Published: Wed, February 12, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Protesters carried signs outside some of the 61 state liquor stores that were allowed to open.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Bottles of bourbon and Bordeaux were on sale in Pennsylvania on Sunday for the first time since Prohibition.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board opened 61 stores across the state Sunday-- roughly 10 percent of Pennsylvania's 638 stores -- under a program that won legislative approval last year.

Many consumers welcomed the start of the two-year trial program, but critics said Sunday alcohol sales would only widen the damage alcohol can do.

"A lot of people think that Sundays are a day for families and a day for God and that it's inappropriate to sell things," said Jonathan Newman, chairman of the state liquor board. "But this is 2003, and the modern reality is that Sunday is the second-most-popular shopping day of the week."

John Dennis, the manager of a liquor store in Philadelphia, said he'd heard nothing but positive feedback from customers.

"The way I see it is the state is responding to consumer demand," he said.

Customer John Goodwin, 43, said he understood why some might be opposed to Sunday sales, but that he was happy with the new program.

"I think it's great. You have to be 21; you have to be an adult," Goodwin said. "It's more convenient than getting it on Saturday."

Opposition

Protests were held outside several stores. A half-dozen people held signs outside one Philadelphia store that read "A liquor control board? What a joke" and "Sunday Sales End With Monday Mourning."

"Fact is, more alcohol sold is more harm done," said protester Fred Stair, 70, who said he used to work at a state liquor store.

Stair said that having Sunday sales only adds to a "slippery slope of loss of control" of sales by the state board.

Other critics said Sunday sales will lead to more fatal accidents caused by drunken drivers. But Newman said he'd rather have consumers buy alcohol in a store and take it home than drive home from a bar.

But several protesters who worked at state liquor stores -- such as Stair -- said some people drink the alcohol outside of the store and then drive home.

Newman said Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states that control wholesale and retail wine and spirit sales. But about half the states in the country restrict Sunday sales, he said.

Alcohol sales deliver more than $300 million in net revenue to the state through taxes and sales profits every year, Newman said.

The two-year trial period will help the state determine if Sunday sales simply lower Saturday sales or if they attract customers who would have purchased alcohol in border states such as New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia, which allow some form of Sunday wine and liquor sales, Newman said.

Ohio and Delaware don't allow Sunday sales, he said. New York allows Sunday wine sales only at wineries.




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