Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Change Liquor Laws, But For Right Reasons

originally published in the New Britain Herald and Bristol Press, March 1, 2009


Behold what a badass I used to be: One weekend, back in my wild and tempestuous grad school days, I bought a bottle of bourbon at 9:17 p.m. And Scotch, and mixers too.

“I don’t get it,” you might say if you live in most parts of the country. “What’s badass about an over-21 adult buying liquor so early in the evening, then taking it home to share with age-appropriate friends?”

But if you live in Connecticut, as I do, you’ll recognize the rebellious nature of my youthful actions. Bottled alcohol sales here are illegal after 9 p.m., and all day on Sundays. Even 9 o’clock is permissive by historical standards; in my school days, alcohol’s witching hour fell at 8 p.m.

Of course, you can still buy liquor until 1 or 2 in the morning, if you go to a bar and drink it there. You just can’t take the safer option of driving home before drinking what you bought.

That’s what made my student self such a badass party hostess by Nutmeg State standards: I bought those bottles an hour and 17 minutes too late.

But I’m not confessing to any crime here. I obeyed the letter of the liquor law even as I violated its spirit — I simply crossed the nearest state line to a still-open liquor store. That’s easy in a tiny state such as Connecticut, where the border is rarely more than an hour away and usually less than that.

Ah, nostalgia. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Good Old Days, when I was younger and the economy hadn’t started doing cliff-diver impersonations. Now with everything in free­fall, some Connecticut lawmakers — even the governor herself — are suggesting we dismantle certain laws, such as the alcohol ones, written solely to make it harder for in-state consumers to spend money — and pay sales tax — close to home.

To that end, three state representatives from the border town of Enfield have proposed legislation allowing liquor stores open on Sundays, while Gov. M. Jodi Rell suggested allowing Indian casinos to serve alcohol far into the wee hours of the morning.

Naturally, there’s opposition to both proposals. Some argue the state has a moral duty to prevent alcohol purchases at certain dates and times. Others say the law should be changed only if it makes money for the state, and there’s no evidence expanded alcohol hours would do that. Sunday openings are even opposed by liquor-store owners far from the border towns, who enjoy taking time off with no fear their competitors might make sales in the meantime.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I rarely drink, never gamble, and wouldn’t dream of doing anything as bureaucracy-intensive as getting a liquor license. But I support these proposals all the same: Let the stores open Sundays, let the casinos serve drinks all night. Heck, let bars and restaurants do it too, if they wish.

Would this make money for the state? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s not the question to ask, unless you like the implication “Citizens should only do things if the state makes money off it.”

Of course, I belong to the demographic old enough to engage in nostalgia. Maybe that’s why I get all crotchety at the suggestion I’m just a revenue source for the government, rather than the ostensibly free citizen of a democratic republic.