Sunday Sales Not So Bad After All

Washington state pilot program spurs huge success

Washington’s experiment with Sunday liquor sales is a big hit, and lawmakers may expand it to more stores this year.

Twenty state-run stores and 38 contract stores run by private vendors have been keeping Sunday hours for the past 16 months, with sales expected to top $18.5 million by June 30. About half of that goes to the state treasury, local governments, health services and alcoholism prevention programs.

Sales are well above the original estimate of $9.6 million when lawmakers agreed to partially suspend Washington’s long-standing “Blue Law” prohibition on Sunday hard liquor sales at the state monopoly stores.

Sunday sales were authorized at 20 of the state’s 161 state-run stores and at all 158 contract stores run by the private sector.

Board administrator Pat Kohler told the House Commerce and Labor Committee on Friday that the pilot project is off to a smooth start and that sales are far exceeding predictions. The Sunday operations haven’t come at the expense of sales on Friday and Monday or at other state liquor stores, and there has been no spike in robberies or other trouble at the stores, she said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has suggested continuing the same setup for another two years, but lawmakers may opt to expand Sunday sales to all stores – or at least to more locales, said Senate budget Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton. One compromise would be doubling the number of stores with the extra hours, she said.