The Answers Issue: Will D.C. ever overturn its blue laws?

Will they ever turn over the so-called “blue laws”? Why on earth can I not buy some friggin’ vodka on Sunday, dammit?!?

On the surface, the District seems like it’d be a torchbearer in the war against draconian Sunday drinking laws. According to Garrett Peck, who documented the city’s speakeasy culture in Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t, D.C. stood firm in the face of both an even longer spell of Prohibition than the rest of the country, and Congress’ “very strong” 1934 restrictions on liquor retail. So, decades into home rule, the repeal of restrictions on Sunday sales is probably a no-brainer, right?

Don’t quit rationing that rye quite yet. According to Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, who chairs the committee that oversees the city’s booze bureaucracy, a total repeal of the Sunday ban “was considered but rejected” during the review of the city’s 2012 budget. “As of now, there are no plans” to reconsider, he adds.

Still, the laws have moved from navy-blue to sky-blue of late. Late last year, the council approved an extension of hours that now allows certain retailers, bars, and restaurants to sell liquor until midnight and serve booze at 8 a.m. on Sundays. Peck believes the city would probably allow Sunday hours—if liquor store owners as a group actually requested it. But for mom-and-pop stores, Sunday hours aren’t always easy to pull off. “It’s an extra cost for many of the businesses,” Peck says.

Of course, if you really need booze on the day of rest, just hop over to Montgomery County—whose 24 wine and liquor stores, including one Metro-accessible outlet just over the District line in Chevy Chase, all have Sunday hours—or Virginia, where the commonwealth’s state-owned stores also open on Sunday.

Our Readers Say

Ask the hospitality industry. You may not be able to buy a bottle of vodka at the liquor store on a Sunday, but a bar or restaurant would be happy to fix you a cocktail -- for $10.

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