A big thank you is due to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
Despite cutting the HOPE scholarship, attempting to undermine Pre-K education, unethically directing money toward his own auto company and attempting to bring in Arizona-like immigration policies, at least he’s said that he’ll sign a bill legalizing Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia.
It’s about time. After being stuck in the Senate for five long years, the bill finally made it through last month — despite what all the naysayers have wanted to believe — by passing in the House last week. It is now awaiting Deal’s signature before going into effect this fall.
If signed into law, Georgia will be joining more than 35 states that currently allow for Sunday alcohol sales.
It only seems to be the rational response to consumer demand. And after all, few of the counter-arguments have made much sense at all in this case. But seeing as we live in, well, Georgia, it doesn’t really come as much of a surprise that the initiative has been blocked for so long, nor that much of the opposition is based on religious dogma.
Last week, Rev. Ernest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church remarked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) that he would be encouraging his parishioners to vote against the measure.
He explained simply, “The Lord’s day, which most people don’t acknowledge ... It’s a day of worship, a day to turn off the spigot.”
Hilarity aside (if only all my alcohol came out of a spigot), the comment embodies a real concern. AJC columnist Johnny Edwards agrees that the battle will be a “messy” one as voters engage in the apparently very demanding and very pressing debate of whether “cashiers should be ringing up Budweiser, Barefoot and Bacardi after church lets out.”
Georgia predictably falls in the minority of states that has preserved a number of blue laws — regulations restricting various activities on Sundays in observance of religious principles, which include banning alcohol sales. According to a 2002 U.S. News report, the emergence of blue laws first appeared in the 17th century with Puritan colonists.
While the tradition and history of the blue laws don’t make the strongest case for me, perhaps the most unsubstantiated argument is still one made by Representative Randy Nix. As described in an AJC article from last Wednesday, Nix insisted that the bill must be blocked because it would “encourage and promote greater alcohol availability.”
It seems like a standard point to make, but anyone who’s gone through the minor (but so very worth it) hassle of conserving “Sunday beer” will recognize a flaw to his logic. Not to mention that restaurants with liquor licenses are still allowed to serve alcohol after noon on Sundays; it’s just such an inconvenience to have to put on pants.
Thankfully, the possible changes to be made to the Georgia codes feed into a greater national issue about our evolving attitudes toward alcohol use. People seem to be recognizing that the U.S. has, ironically, suffered from poor alcohol use management, despite being one of only a handful of countries with a minimum drinking age as high as 21.
FOX News reporter Radley Balko aptly commented on the situation, remarking, “Prohibitions have always provoked overindulgence.” It makes no sense to hang on to such antiquated laws when several cross-cultural and national studies have suggested that more relaxed alcohol laws can lead to better education and more responsible consumption habits.
And unlike a number of vices, alcohol consumption is one that is generally safe. In fact, many health sources have even suggested that alcohol can promote heart health hand and reduce the risk of stroke when consumed in moderation.
The catch here is that in a country that thrives on excess, most of us have lost sight of what moderation is — essentially one drink a day, maximum.
Of course, it’s difficult to entirely predict the consequences of such a law, and public health experts have continually explored the balance between availability and indulgence. For example, Ireland saw a five-percent rise in alcohol-related offenses when alcohol-licensing regulations were relaxed in 2000.
Regardless of the outcome of these revisions, one thing seems to be certain: The trend with alcohol law revisions has been moving toward relaxation over the past decade or so, and people are generally going to get what they want. So with the way things are going, maybe hoarding enough Sunday beer won’t be such a pressing concern for us.
Managing Editor Catherine Cai is a College junior from Atlanta.