More bars could open Sundays under bill awaiting Nixon’s signature

Posted: June 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Thirty3 Bar and Grill in Festus

Will Ferguson, a bartender at the Island Bar in Winchester,  would like the place to open on Sundays, especially when pro  football is on television.

But state law prevents the west St. Louis County tavern from doing so  because it doesn’t sell a large amount of food, unlike some competitors.

“They are allowed to open and we’re not,” he said. “It’s very  unfair.”

That could change under a bill passed by the Legislature last month and  awaiting Gov. Jay Nixon’s signature.

The measure would allow any establishment with a regular liquor-by-the-drink  license to also qualify for a Sunday permit, eliminating a remnant of the  state’s old blue law that once prohibited sales on Sunday of a wide range of  products. Now Sunday licenses are limited to those meeting the food requirement  or some alternate restrictions.

“It just gives more businesses the option if they so choose,” said the bill’s  sponsor, Rep. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield. Another backer — Sen. Eric Schmitt,  R-Glendale — added that the measure replaces an existing “hodgepodge, patchwork  system” of Sunday liquor rules adopted piecemeal by lawmakers over the  years.

This year’s bill was supported by the Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association,  Anheueser-Busch InBev and the Missouri Association of Beverage Retailers.

But an opponent, Kerry Messer, a lobbyist for the Missouri Baptist  Convention, argues that widening Sunday sales of liquor by the drink could only  aggravate drunken-driving and other social ills associated with alcohol.

“The expanded hours open the doors to abuse,” said Messer, who also  represents the Missouri Family Network. “The liquor industry has pulled the wool  over the lawmakers’ eyes.”

Under current law, the most common Sunday licenses statewide are for  “restaurant bars” — places at which food accounts for at least half the gross  annual sales or at least $200,000 in gross receipts.

You also can get an alcoholic drink on Sunday at stadiums, airports, veterans  and fraternal groups’ halls, hotels, wineries, bowling alleys, golf courses and  bars with pool tables and other games of skill. Bars that sell only beer also  can open Sunday.

In St. Louis and in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, as well as parts of  metro Kansas City, there’s yet another route to a Sunday license: amassing gross  annual sales of more than $250,000.

Of 7,796 establishments with liquor-by-the-drink licenses statewide at the  end of last month, 4,813 — or 62 percent — can sell some type of booze on  Sunday.

No ‘mad dash’

It’s unclear how many additional Sunday licenses would be sought if the bill  becomes law.

Jennifer Durham, a lobbyist for Anheuser-Busch, said she doubts there would  be a large immediate influx. “The biggest portion of places that wanted to  already had a way to get it,” she said, referring to the food and gross sales  provisions.

St. Louis Excise Commissioner Robert Kraiberg agreed. He oversees city liquor  law enforcement. “I don’t think there would be a mad dash” of new Sunday license  applicants, he said.

A spokesman for Nixon, Scott Holste, was noncommittal on the issue, saying  only that his office would give the bill a thorough review. The state Division  of Alcohol and Tobacco Control hasn’t taken a position, although a spokesman  agreed with the contention of supporters that the measure would make enforcement  less complicated.

If the governor signs the measure, it becomes law Aug. 28. But before the  looser rules could take effect in many areas, local governments — many of which  have liquor ordinances mirroring state law — would have to follow suit.

The bill also includes other changes, including allowing bars at Lambert-St.  Louis International Airport to start serving alcoholic drinks as early as 4 a.m  and legalizing table-tap beer dispensing machines.

The starting time for serving alcohol on Sundays would be set at 9 a.m.  except at Lambert; now some types of licenses specify 8 or 11 a.m.

This isn’t the first time the Legislature has voted to allow any bar to be  open on Sundays; it included such a provision in a bill passed in 1999. But Gov.  Mel Carnahan vetoed the legislation because of his opposition to an unrelated  provision that set tougher guidelines for using minors in stings to catch stores  illegally selling liquor to customers under 21. That’s not in the current  measure.

Missouri’s old general blue law, dating to 1925, banned the Sunday sale of  all goods except drugs, medicine and articles of “immediate necessity.”

In 1963, after the state Supreme Court threw out the law as too vague, the  Legislature enacted a new version specifying a long list of items that couldn’t  be sold. Then, in the late 1970s, the Legislature began to allow Missouri  counties to exempt themselves and most have since done so.

A major exception is car dealerships. With the historical support of auto  dealers’ associations, the Legislature has maintained the statewide ban on  Sunday sales of motor vehicles.

Liquor restrictions also have been handled differently, with the state  gradually lessening the Sunday rules. In 1971, the state began allowing liquor  to be served in restaurants. A major change came in 1993 authorizing groceries,  liquor stores and other retail outlets to sell booze on Sundays.

Bar owners contacted by a reporter had mixed reactions to this year’s  bill.

Justin Knoke, who owns the Thirty3 Bar and Grill in Festus, said his place is  too small to meet current Sunday restrictions but that he’d apply if the rules  change. “The most common question I get is, will I be open Sundays” during  football season, he said.

Toni Downs of Toni’s Dellwood Lounge in Dellwood and John Lograsso of Mickey  Lograsso’s Sports Bar in Lemay would like having the Sunday option but are  undecided if they’d apply.

Paul Lewis, a lobbyist with the beverage retailers group, said the bill also  would help bars that sometimes meet food or gross sales requirements but fall  short other years.

In that category is the All Stars Sports Pub and Grill in St. Peters. Owner  Bob Medley was happy to hear about the bill because he’s losing his current  Sunday license this month. “It’s a great way to lose a customer,” he said.

But Don Vogele said he doesn’t want to open his Duchesne Bar and Grill on  Sundays because there wouldn’t be much business at his St. Charles location.

Jo Geile at Jo’s Fifth Street Bar in Cottleville also wouldn’t take advantage  of the proposed Sunday change. “That’s my day with my family,” she said.

By false representations and angry appeals, they will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a “Thus saith the Scriptures” to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for a Sunday law…. On this battlefield comes the last great conflict of the controversy between truth and error.—Testimonies for the Church 5:450, 451. – {ChS 158.3}
Many have asked When is the Sabbath,what is Sabbath, and how do you honor the Sabbath day? Find out at

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