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This one's for the Legislature

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Last Sunday afternoon, we did what a lot of people do on most Sunday afternoons. We went shopping.

When you work all week and usually have a full agenda Saturday, it's often the only good chance to spend time leisurely buying what you need groceries, clothes, a camera, whatever.

We would have added one more stop to our list, but the law didn't allow it. At least, not last Sunday or any Sunday in our lifetimes.

Until now. Thanks to a new state law, which took effect July 1, Colorado's liquor stores can open for business on Sundays if they so choose. Normal folks who enjoy leisurely picking out a few bottles of wine or a different microbrewed beer should have no problem doing that on Sundays from now on.

Others will have their own ideas for how to take advantage. They won't have to hurry out anymore to stock up for Sunday on Saturday night, perhaps gambling they won't get caught driving while impaired, or worse. Or they'll realize on Sunday that they need a bottle of chardonnay or a six-pack of Coors, and they'll be able to get it. They also won't have to settle for 3.2 beer at supermarkets and convenience stores, as has been the case.

Welcome to the 21st century, Colorado. Come this weekend, you'll discover what two-thirds of the other states already appreciate: the choice to buy liquor, wine and full-strength beer on Sunday without going to a bar. And no, it definitely doesn't mean we've lost one more pillar of our morality.

The old law had lasted since Prohibition, going on eight decades. But many other states long since had figured out how antiquated it was. Our family realized that while living in Florida and Texas, where we also appreciated being able to buy wine and full-strength beer at grocery stores ("Let's improve liquor laws," Between the Lines, April 26, 2007). That's the next step for Colorado's Legislature, as soon as 2009. Detractors say it would hurt small liquor stores, but we never saw that in Florida or Texas.

We noticed something else in those other states, which Coloradans will see now. Not every liquor store will open on Sundays (though most probably will at the start, to see how it goes). It simply doesn't make sense for every business to operate seven days a week, whether a restaurant, gas station or whatever.

My guess is, most liquor stores will be like one close to us Red Rock Liquor, just west of 31st Street and Colorado Avenue. Red Rock will be open Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. for a while, and at some point will decide whether to adjust the hours either way.

We'll also want to go further east, to the much-larger Cheers Liquor Mart or Coaltrain Wine & Spirits on our list of stops for a typical Sunday. Surely, big stores will aim for that business and plan sales or events accordingly. That's smart business. But the smaller neighborhood stores should benefit from customers who don't care to drive across town.

Sorry, but it's hard to feel bad for some liquor-store owners complaining about having to be open seven days a week. Sure, their schedule will change. Sure, they might have some added costs. But if business isn't good enough, they can simply stay closed on Sundays. Nobody will blame them.

One last point: We've heard the state has projected having liquor stores open on Sundays could add millions in tax revenue. Perhaps, but changing this law wasn't about adding tax revenue. It's about making life a little easier for everyday people.

This isn't the place to talk about the societal problems of people who drink too much and become addicted. Those issues, of course, are very real, but they would exist even if liquor stores were only open a few days a week. We can't outlaw everything that's potentially addictive. And bars already were open on Sundays. They might lose some business, but not much. Most people won't change their habits because it's Sunday, whether they prefer bars or drinking at home.

So let's not make this more than it is: From now on, throughout Colorado, you can buy liquor, wine and full-strength beer on Sundays, just as you already could the other six days of the week.

That's progress. And unless you're a tee-totaler, you'll like it. Immediately.

routon@csindy.com

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