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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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5/7/2010 9:30:00 AM
Arizona to do away with Sunday morning booze ban

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- On the first Sunday in August, you'll be able to toast the sunrise with a tequila sunrise.

Or a bloody Mary, a mimosa or even just scotch on the rocks.

Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed legislation which wipes away the last vestige of special Arizona laws that regulate when people can walk into a bar or restaurant on a Sunday and buy a drink. The law, which takes effect at the end of July, also means anyone who wants to pick up a six-pack of beer on the way home from church -- or even on the way to services -- can do so.

Brewer's decision is a victory for two first-term Tucson lawmakers who actually played a bit of political poker with the governor. In the end she folded.

Under current law, residents and visitors in Arizona can buy beer, wine and liquor every day beginning at 6 a.m. through 2 the following morning.

But Sundays always have been different.

At one time there were no sales before noon. That was changed to 10 a.m. more than a decade ago to accommodate demands by Bill Bidwill who had brought his Cardinals football team to Arizona and wanted to be able to sell beer in the stands when games had to start early because of TV schedules.

That wasn't enough for Democratic Rep. Matt Heinz. He figured that allowing booze to be poured even earlier would be good for business, what with the state's resorts catering to tourists.

When his original plan got hung up, Republican Sen. Frank Antenori took up the cause. And he did it in a way to insulate the plan from opposition: He attached it to legislation needed to keep alive the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, the agency that regulates alcohol sales in the state.

Brewer balked, sending a message that she was not pleased about having that bill held hostage. But Antenori and Heinz held firm. And on Thursday Brewer signed the bill -- early Sunday sales and all.

Antenori said he doesn't buy the argument that the rules should be different on what some people believe is the Lord's Day.

"For a certain specific religion you can't carve out a special exemption,' he said. "I don't think that's right.'

He said if lawmakers want to protect church goers from being sidetracked by open bars on Sunday then they also would be obligated to put similar rules in place on Saturdays for Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. And Friday morning would be off limits because of Islam.

And Heinz said there is no reason to restrict those who have no day of worship at all.

Heinz also said the change is good for the economy -- and good for the state's financial bottom line: An analysis prepared by legislative budget staffers concluded selling beer, wine and hard liquor an extra four hours a week could generate more than $430,000 a year in new tax revenues.

The law takes effect on July 29, making Sunday, Aug. 1, the first day for early imbibing.

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