ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – New York’s repeal of the Sunday prohibition meant fresh paint at Putnam Wines on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Wine buyer William Roach already added “Sunday 12-9 p.m.” to the list of store hours and was getting ready to put “Closed Wednesday” on the window facing the city’s central thoroughfare, bristling with foot traffic Sunday.

The state Legislature overrode Gov. George Pataki’s veto of a repeal of the state’s “blue laws,” which prohibited Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. The ban originated in a time when Sunday commerce was believed to violate the sabbath.

The new measure allows the state’s 2,484 wine and liquor stores to do business six days a week, including on Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.

Roach, who saw the successful rollback of blue laws in England before moving to Saratoga Springs, had no reservations about opening on a Sunday.

“If you can imagine, people treat wine shops the way they treat book shops. And Sunday is a perfect day for that kind of browsing when people have all sorts of time.”

Ingrid and John O’Connell of nearby Ballston Spa agree. Both work all week and use Sunday to catch up on errands.

“Sunday is a huge shopping day for many, many people, especially in a store like this,” John O’Connell said.

A wine-tasting marked the beginning of Sunday alcohol sales at All Star Wine & Spirits in the Albany suburb of Latham. Store owner Craig Allen said customer response to the Sunday business hours has been positive.

“I’ve had more handshakes today than I’ve had since the time I’ve been here,” he said.

As he sipped a cup of wine, Larry Snavley, 55, and Ida Canty, 53, of Albany, shopped for new additions for their wine cellar.

“Every now and then we come up to replenish our supply of wine. Saturdays don’t always give us enough time,” Canty said.

“It’s actually convenient that the store is open today.”

Under the “blue laws,” New Yorkers seeking alcoholic beverages often fled to duty-free shops in Ontario or to neighboring states on Sundays.

“It used to be aggravating,” said Steve Glamuzina, owner of Georgetown Square Wine and Spirit in Buffalo.

and president of Empire Liquor Store Association.

He said last year’s Memorial Day holiday was tough.

“It was a horrendous day, on Memorial Day, to be open. We were no convenience to anybody,” he said. “Conservatively, I’ve already doubled my sales (over the last holiday).”

Lawmakers who supported the provision say it could help ease the pain of this fiscal year $12 billion deficit in the state.

Proponents of the liquor sales provision say Sunday is potentially the second most lucrative day of the week for liquor sales after Saturday. They predict that stores operating on Sunday and closing on a less productive day could generate up to $26 million more through higher taxes on liquor and wine starting in 2004.

“I think it’s more directed toward helping consumers. That’s the main intent of my proposal was to make it more convenient for New Yorkers to shop on Sunday,” said Assemblyman Ronald Canestrari, an Albany County Democrat who has been working for two years to repeal the blue laws.

But some store owners aren’t so sure.

Bill Mankus, co-owner of Vestal Wine and Liquors near Binghamton, 70 miles south of Syracuse, doesn’t see why he should open on Sundays.

“People are used to stores being closed on Sunday. It’s a day we don’t know anything about, and it’s a shorter day,” he told the Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton.

Christine Girnik, owner of Roberts Liquors in DeWitt, a Syracuse suburb, is worried about turning off regular customers if her store closed another day during the week.

“How can I all of a sudden pick a day and run the risk of alienating people who come to you all week? How would you pick?” Girnik said to the Post-Standard of Syracuse.

Roach said it will take time for people to realize they can buy wine and liquor on Sunday, greeting a customer in his Saratoga Springs shop with: “Yes, it is Sunday. Yes, it is New York and yes, we are open for business.”



AP writers Rachel Kipp and Rik Stevens in Albany also contributed to this report.

AP-ES-05-25-03 1703EDT



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