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Pasco Commission votes to now allow alcohol sales on Sunday mornings

Commissioners unanimously vote to end the county’s blue law.
West Pasco Government Center.
West Pasco Government Center. [ Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 10, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — Several months ago, Pasco County commissioner Kathryn Starkey said it would be nice if the county would allow boaters heading out for a Sunday on the water to buy a six-pack before launching their craft.

Others might appreciate a refreshing mimosa with their Sunday brunch. But since Pasco County forbid alcohol sales before 11 a.m., that wasn’t possible.

This week that changed.

Pasco commissioners approved removing the last special Sunday alcohol sale and service provision from their county ordinances, ending the so-called “blue law” put in place to provide a day for worship and rest.

That makes Pasco the latest community to alter or end such Sunday sales and service rules, which some argue are outdated. The Sunday regulations date to 17th century New England, when the Puritans placed people in stocks and whipped them in the public square for breaking rules on the Sabbath.

While the alcohol sales prohibition is one that can be found in many states and communities still, some places prohibit other things, such as selling cars on a Sunday. While a variety of reasons have been cited when the laws have been repealed, they often focused on allowing vendors and restaurants the ability to offer alcohol to be able to compete with places that did, or for the convenience of patrons of sporting events.

Pinellas County ended its blue law in 2017. Hillsborough County still prohibits sales of alcohol before 11 a.m. on Sundays.

While local ministers were opposed a decade ago, when the Zephyrhills City Council reduced the prohibited hours for selling alcohol on Sundays to match the county’s rules, there were no public comments and little discussion before Tuesday’s unanimous vote by the commission.

Starkey did ask why the ordinance listed both alcohol sales and the sales of “intoxicating beverages,” because it implied everyone drinking was getting intoxicated. But when the county attorney pointed out that change would require new advertising and a delay, she dropped her comment.

One Starkey family business will benefit from the change: The Starkey Market does sell alcohol.

The ordinance now reads that alcohol sales every day of the week are allowed from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. of the following day. Resorts can sell alcohol up to 3 a.m.