One of the oddities of life in America is going to the grocery store on Sunday morning to lay in various supplies, only to find yourself unable to get a six-pack of beer. Chicago is like many other places in restricting sales of alcohol on this particular morning. You can't buy it in a store until 11 a.m.
Ald. Patrick O'Connor has introduced a bill to allow Sunday sales starting at 8 a.m., which would remove a pointless inconvenience to consumers and a hindrance to retailers. If it's okay to buy booze at 8 a.m. every other day of the week, it's hard to see what's so special about Sunday.
Even if it were a legitimate purpose of government to keep the sabbath holy, this is not likely to make much difference. Not many people will decide, upon finding that they can't get a bottle of wine, that they should go to church instead.
Nor would the change increase the prevalence alcohol abuse, since hardcore drunks generally keep a supply on hand. If anyone is likely to stay in bed late on Sunday mornings, it's them. The people waiting when Costco opens its doors at 10 a.m. are mostly the sober sort. But they now enter only to find the beer and liquor aisles sealed off.
Some members of the city council say they "don't want loitering outside liquor stores early in the morning and don't want to make it easier for alcoholics to get their hands on booze earlier in the day," as The Tribune's John Byrne reported.
But does it really matter if the loitering occurs on Sunday morning instead of Saturday or Monday? Or at 9 a.m. Sunday instead of noon? If anything, the change would tend to spread the loiterers out over time, thinning their concentration at any given hour.
Liquor stores can be a source of trouble in some neighborhoods. But an extra three hours of sales time each week is not likely to make them worse.
Here, as in most cases, the consumer should rule. If Chicagoans (or residents of my suburb, which has the same Sunday rule) want to buy beer or bourbon on their way to brunch, that should be their choice. And anyone who prefers to wait until after worship services -- or abstain entirely -- is welcome to.