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Missouri lawmakers approve earlier Sunday alcohol sales
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri shoppers could buy a cold beer or a hard drink before mid-morning Sunday church services under a bill given final approval Wednesday by the Missouri Legislature.
The bill, which now goes to Gov. Bob Holden, would allow alcohol sales as early as 9 a.m. -- instead of the current 11 a.m. -- at Missouri retail stores, restaurants and some amusement venues, such as golf courses and pool halls.
Restaurants at Kansas City's Truman Sports Complex could sell alcohol as early as 8 a.m. on Sundays -- a privilege already allowed in the city of St. Louis.
Some proponents said earlier Sunday sales would be convenient for consumers and helpful for the state's tourism economy -- be it at tailgate parties before professional football games, tours at wineries or Sunday restaurant brunches that could add alcohol to their fruit and vegetable juices.
"It's for the good people, for convenience sake, or for those out for a tourist event," said sponsoring Sen. John Greishiemer, R-Washington.
The bill also requires keg purchasers to provide their names, addresses and birth dates to vendors. Labels would be attached to kegs -- allowing authorities to track down the adults who bought them if the kegs end up at an underage beer parties.
The legislation passed the House by an announced vote of 95-55 on Wednesday night. It cleared the Senate by a 26-6 vote Tuesday night.
If Holden signs the bill into law, the earlier Sunday sales would start Aug. 28, while the provision on keg registration would take effect July 1, 2004.
Although opposing the Sunday sales provision, Mothers Against Drunk Driving supported the bill because of the keg registration, which had failed in the legislature for the past several years.
"We think the good outweighs the bad on this particular bill," said Don Otto, executive director of the Missouri chapter of MADD.
Similarly, the state retailers and grocers associations weren't enthused about the additional hassle of keg registration, but they backed the bill because of the earlier Sunday sales. Their lobbyist, David Overfelt, said 9 a.m. was a compromise from their ultimate goal of deleting all differences between Sunday and weekday alcohol sales.
Overfelt said earlier Sunday sales are unlikely to cause people to buy more alcohol.
"I think it just shifts sales," he said. "A lot of people buy alcohol when they know they're going somewhere early Sunday -- going fishing or having picnics. They wouldn't have to plan and buy a day in advance."
Skeptics said they had heard no public clamor to buy alcohol earlier on Sundays. They said earlier Sunday sales only would lead to more alcohol-related accidents or incidents of abuse.
"This is not so much society crying out for more access to alcohol, but rather alcohol crying out for more access to our citizens," said Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, a member of the bill's conference committee who refused to sign off on the final negotiated version. "It's neither a necessity nor is it beneficial to the state or the economy or voters."
Missouri has allowed some form of Sunday alcohol sales since 1971, said Mike Schler of the state Division of Liquor Control. Under the bill, the agency's name would be changed to the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control to reflect the fact that it also enforces tobacco laws.
Nine Missouri communities already have local keg registration laws, said Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Lee's Summit, who handled the bill in the House. The state keg provision would supersede any local ordinances.
An estimated 200,000 kegs -- or 2.7 million gallons -- of beer are sold in Missouri annually.
Another provision of the bill sets a minimum age of 19 for people to dance in adult cabarets. The Senate version of the bill had set the age at 21.
State law currently sets no minimum age for exotic dancers, although some have interpreted a criminal law on obscenity and minors as effectively requiring that dancers in adult clubs be at least 18 years old.
HOW THEY VOTED
How Southeast Missouri lawmakers voted on alcohol sales bill:HOUSE REPUBLICANS
Kevin Engler, Farmington.
Rod Jetton, Marble Hill.
Scott Lipke, Jackson.HOUSE REPUBLICANS
Gayle Kingery, Poplar Bluff.
Rob Mayer, Dexter.
Peter Myers, Sikeston.HOUSE REPUBLICAN
HOUSE DEMOCRAT VOTING YES
HOUSE DEMOCRAT NOT VOTING