It’s Chiefs season and small local bars and taverns are seeing red. But not because the home team is 6-0 and may be Super Bowl bound.
Not even close.
Nope, it’s because Regulated Industries aka Liquor Control has allowed a small group of civic volunteers to enforce discriminatory Sunday Blue Laws that in most halfway enlightened communities have long since gone the way of the dinosaur.
“For years bars with an occupancy of under 300 people couldn’t be open on Sunday unless they had $60,000 in non alcoholic sales annually,” says bar owner and Westport businessman Bill Nigro. “So I went to the city council and said, why don’t we allow the little bars to be open on Sunday to create more jobs and revenue for the city? And they sent the idea to Liquor Control who put the idea before a relatively new community group called the Alcoholic Beverage Advisory Group to determine if it should be done.”
However when that board met to consider and vote on the idea, most of the key players conveniently no-showed – including the big bar owners like Chris Lewellen (Lew’s, The Well) and Kyle Kelly (Kelly’s) who stood to suffer from small bar competition. In fact, only two neighborhood reps and two ministers showed up for the big vote.
“They said the little bars could be open on Sunday but only if they were able to get consents from surrounding property owners,” Nigro says. “And the consent process takes a minimum of four months. First you have to get the X / Y coordinates of your front door from outer space. Then the city has to determine all of the property owners within 350 feet and notify them that you need their permission to be open Sundays and then you need over half of them to say OK.”
Bull hockey, Nigro says.
“Look, they already have liquor licenses, why should they have to get consents to be open on Sunday? I was at the meeting and I said to one of the ministers, “Do you think that God wanted to punish the little bars by not letting them be open on Sunday?’ And I said, ‘What’s the difference between Sunday and Monday anyway?’ And his response was, ‘Now don’t go there.’ ”
Don’t go there indeed…
Sunday Blue Laws have been around for decades – centuries even – but why penalize the little guys and give the big guys a pass, Nigro asks?
Not familiar with the term “Blue Laws,” I’ll let David J. Hanson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology of the State University of New York explain:
“A blue law is one restricting activities or sales of goods on Sunday, to accommodate the Christian sabbath. The first blue law in the American colonies was enacted in Virginia in 1617. It required church attendance and authorized the militia to force colonists to attend church services.”
“I thought church and state were supposed to be separate. So why else would small bars not be allowed to be open on Sunday? By making them go through the consents process they’re going to miss the entire Chiefs season which is going to cost them a lot of money. And for what? Because two ministers and two neighborhood group leaders decided they needed to get consents even though they’re open every other day of the week ?”