Pinellas County took a big step out of the past when commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance updating the county's rules on Sunday alcohol sales. No longer will stores and restaurants have to wait until 11 a.m. on Sunday to sell alcoholic beverages. Originally passed to ban certain activities for religious reasons, such "blue laws" are unneeded, outdated relics.
Retail outlets can now sell alcohol every day of the week from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. Will this lead to a never-ending Mardi Gras atmosphere on the streets of Largo? Drunk and disorderly conduct unchecked in Gulfport? Hardly. There's a valid public safety argument for ending alcohol sales at 3 a.m., but none for making football fans, boaters or the brunch crowd hold off until 11 on Sundays. "It is important to note," Belleair Mayor Gary Katica wrote to commissioners, "that there were no objections … by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office regarding this issue."
Cities in Pinellas can still pass their own ordinances further restricting the hours of alcohol sales. That's not likely in St. Petersburg, where Mayor Rick Kriseman had been lobbying for the change for more than a year, with an eye toward giving local businesses and tourism a boost. The idea was popular on the beaches too, where elected leaders know that many vacationers want to relax with a cocktail or a beer at all times of the day.
Pinellas County's new alcohol ordinance is a commonsense change for a place so reliant on tourism. Allowing earlier Sunday alcohol sales won't lead down the road to ruin. It's simply convenient and consumer-friendly.