New Alcohol Bill Passed in Pinellas County
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on June 19, 2017
While drunk driving remains a major problem in Orlando and throughout central Florida, that has not slowed the demand for liquor. Responding to public demand, the Pinellas County Commission approved legislation back in March that permits bars, restaurants, and stores to begin selling hard liquor on Sundays starting at 8 a.m. Under previous rules, 8 a.m. sales were the rule for every day except Sunday, when liquor could not be sold before 11 a.m.
Will an 8 a.m. Start Be a Boon For Area Businesses?
The later start for Sunday liquor sales was a remnant of the “blue laws,” which date back to colonial times. Many states and localities adopted special Sunday morning restrictions on alcohol sales, ostensibly to promote the idea that people should be attending church rather than drinking. In many states, blue laws also restricted other types of businesses from operating on Sunday.
In an editorial supporting the new Pinellas County law, the Tampa Bay Tribune said the 11 a.m. start time for Sunday drinking was an “unneeded, outdated relic.” The editorial noted that while it makes sense to require liquor sales end at 3 a.m.–that remains unchanged from the previous county ordinance–there was no comparable “public safety argument” for “making football fans, boaters or the brunch crowd hold off until 11 on Sundays.”
Also keep in mind that this is a county-level ordinance, and individual cities within Pinellas may still opt to keep or add their own restrictions on when local businesses may sell alcohol. But so far, there is little evidence to suggest that cities do not welcome the county’s move. The Times cited St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman as a key figure in “lobbying for the change” as a way to boost local tourism. And the City of Dunedin’s Commission has already given its unanimous approval to the 8 a.m. start time. City officials said the earlier hours will “give boaters and others more flexibility of when they buy.”
Could Early Sunday Sales Increase DWI?
Some people are always concerned that expending the time when alcohol is legally available for sale may exacerbate Florida’s existing DWI problems. But according to the Times, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office raised no objections to the county’s ordinance. And at least one study published by the National Institutes of Health suggested there is “no relationship between repeal of Sunday sales bans and fatal vehicle accidents.”
But that particular study only addressed bans on the sale of packaged liquor in stores, where people are more likely to drink at home. Given that Pinellas County is also permitting bars and restaurants to begin serving liquor at 8 a.m., it is quite possible we will see more early-morning DWI arrests, especially on a Sunday where roads are generally less congested.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should always enjoy alcohol responsibly, whether on Sunday morning or any other day of the week. And if you are stopped and charged with DWI, you should remain calm and contact a qualified Orlando criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, at 407-377-0150, to schedule a consultation with an experienced Florida DWI defense attorney today.