BOSTON (AP) – A Puritan-era policy of forbidding alcohol sales on the Sabbath ended statewide on Sunday as liquor stores in some cities and towns began non-holiday sales of wine, beer and spirits for the first time in centuries.

The new policy approved in November went into effect on Sunday, though not in every community. Stores stayed closed in cities and towns that have not yet enacted the change locally, and municipalities can also opt out completely.

In Somerville, Barry Yaffe, 46, of Brookline, opened the doors at Paul Revere Beverage at noon. Yaffe, whose parents own the store, said said he would prefer a day of rest, but doesn’t have much of a choice.

“I like having the day off, too, but if business is going to be there and help me pay my bills, then I’m going to be open,” he said. “Retail is seven days a week, as far as I’m concerned.”

The Sunday liquor ban was one of the last vestiges of so-called “blue laws” dating from pre-colonial times. Puritans banned many activities on Sundays, including liquor sales, that were deemed to promote vice or sinful behavior.

The legislature voided most of the blue laws in 1977. The liquor law was eased in the early 1990s to allow alcohol sales in communities within 10 miles of New Hampshire and Vermont, which allowed Sunday sales. Those changes also allowed Sunday sales statewide between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In May, New York state also began allowing Sunday liquor sales.

But after New Year’s, most stores had to close their doors again on the seventh day.

In November, state lawmakers struck down the liquor ban in the waning hours of the year’s legislative session. The change was contained in a $100 million spending bill designed to stimulate the economy.

Gov. Mitt Romney announced several days later that he would not oppose the lifting of the liquor ban.

Not all stores were open Sunday because local governments had to enact the statewide legislation to allow stores to open, and could continue to forbid Sunday liquor sales. Boston, Worcester and other cities and towns had not immediately embraced the legislation. Boston’s Licensing Board was scheduled to take up the issue on Jan. 8.

Frank Anzalotti, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, said he knew of about a dozen cities and town that had enacted the statewide legislation by Sunday, although there could have been more.

More store owners opposed the lifting of the Sunday ban than supported it, by a ratio of about three to two. The association itself took no position, because of that split, he said.

“Now that the ban is lifted, the stores will do whatever they can to work with the law and provide the service to the consumer,” he said.

In cities and towns that did take action, the lights were on in liquor stores Sunday and registers were ringing.

John Geryk, 25, a supervisor at the Liquors 44 store in Northampton, said that about 150 customers passed through the door in the first few hours the store was open. That number was roughly the same as previous Sundays during the holidays, he said.

The difference, however, was that the phone rang about every ten minutes with callers asking if the store was open. In an area where many people drove the 20 miles to stores near the Vermont border, customers were pleased to hear that the store was ready for their business, Geryk said.

“I think it was sort of a silly law in the first place,” he said.

AP-ES-01-04-04 1815EST

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