Senate OKs more Sunday liquor sales, expects a boost in revenue

OLYMPIA – Washington’s experiment with Sunday liquor sales may get another boost. The state Senate on Saturday voted to more than double the number of state-run stores that open their doors on Sunday afternoons.

For the first time since Prohibition ended and the state “blue laws” forbad sales on Sunday, lawmakers voted two years ago to allow 20 state-run stores plus contract stores run by private vendors to open between noon and 5 p.m. on Sundays.

The state Liquor Control Board, which oversees the state monopoly, said the experiment is a big hit, with sales exceeding expectations and causing no apparent problems or falloff of sales on other days. The original sales estimate was $10 million by July 1. Actual sales are expected to top $15 million.

The state has 161 state-run stores and 158 contract stores run by the private sector, typically in rural areas. The board, which also licenses more than 14,000 drinking establishments, chose 20 high-traffic stores for Sunday sales, and 38 of the contract stores opted in.

The Senate legislation, sponsored by the head of the budget panel, Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, would allow 29 additional stores to have Sunday hours. The board would pick the locales by September.

Prentice said part of the extra revenue, about $1 million a year, would be earmarked for the courts to provide interpreter services and to assist the Municipal Council with research for ports and special-purpose districts.

Gov. Chris Gregoire had suggested continuing the same level, 20 stores, for another two years, and some lawmakers wanted to expand Sunday sales to all stores. Prentice said the compromise was to roughly double the number.

Prentice first raised the idea at a budget preview sponsored by the Associated Press in January. She said she has carefully watched the pilot project and is convinced that further expansion would raise needed revenue without causing more alcohol problems.

The measure, which passed 34-12, now goes to the House, where Appropriations Chairwoman Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, said she sees no problems with Sunday sales.

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