D.C. legalizes Sunday liquor sales

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer

Someday soon, D.C. residents will be able to purchase hard alcohol every day of the week.

Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill Wednesday that will allow liquor stores to apply to sell alcohol on Sundays. That means the District's Costco might not need to cordon off its liquor on Sundays for much longer.

As of the end of the day Thursday, nine businesses had applied to sell liquor on Sundays, including Costco at 2441 Market St. NE.

Each application needs to be approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. The first successful applicants likely won't begin selling alcohol on Sundays until February.

A manager at a local liquor store complained that the law unfairly benefited the big-box store.

"I think it's benefiting Costco, if anything," said Gary Lyles, manager at Cairo Wine & Liquor at 1618 17th St. NW.

He said he didn't think the law would substantially benefit small liquor stores. Even though Cairo was one of the first businesses to apply to be open on Sunday, Lyles said the move could cost the store because it would have to pay employees on Sundays.

"Most people use Sunday to get ready for work," he said. But, he mused, the store would probably make money on Redskins game days.

After Virginia broadly legalized Sunday liquor sales on July 1, the state saw an increase in liquor sales, meaning more tax revenue for the state.

Statistics from the District's chief financial officer show that alcohol sales tax revenues have fallen slightly, even though broader sales tax revenues are up by double digits.

In the opening quarter of the city's fiscal year, the District took in about 4 percent less in alcohol sales tax revenues than it did in the same period a year earlier.

Justin Abad, owner of A.M. Wine Shoppe at 2122 18th St. NW, said his store applied to be open on Sundays. His shop, in particular, faces an odd predicament -- it has a Class A license, while many fellow wine shops have Class B licenses, which allow the sale of wine and beer on Sundays, Abad said.

If his application is approved, he'll be able to keep up with the competition. He expects to see a 10 to 15 percent increase in sales.

"I can't tell you the number of times people have walked in to pick up a bottle of wine with their prosciutto," he said.

Soon he won't have to disappoint those customers, he said.

Examiner Staff Writer Alan Blinder contributed to this report.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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