Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
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Pre-noon Sunday liquor sales legalized

The Key West City Commission on Tuesday night repealed on first reading the decades-old ordinance preventing residents and visitors from buying alcohol before noon on Sundays. A second and final vote is expected during the commission's July 5 meeting.

Mayor Craig Cates, who sponsored the measure, and Commissioners Barry Gibson, Teri Johnston, and Billy Wardlow voted to revoke the "blue law," two commissioners abstained claiming conflict of interest issues, and Commissioner Clayton Lopez was absent.

Commissioners Mark Rossi and Jimmy Weekley abstained from the vote because their respective private businesses both sell alcohol.

"I just think it's time it happened," Wardlow told The Citizen at Old City Hall Tuesday evening. "People who go to the store in the mornings to get what they need for the day have to make another trip, later in the day, if they want something to drink.

"Everybody goes over to Stock Island as it is anyway," Wardlow said. Stock Island, most of which is under Monroe County jurisdiction, allows alcohol sales starting at 7 a.m.

Key West businesses had complained for years that tax dollars were being lost to the county due to the Sunday law, Cates said.

Cates told The Citizen on Friday the marina and boater communities had been lobbying heavily to have the law repealed. Other commissioners agreed with Cates' overall sentiments at Tuesday night's meeting

"We can create jobs. We can create money," Gibson told The Citizen on the sidelines of the meeting. "Key West doesn't have too many 'blue laws,'" he joked.

Lopez did not respond to a message left Friday about the issue.

The mayor said the city considered amending the law more than 10 years ago, but the religious right lobbied hard against it. The law goes back at least several decades, but its exact history in Key West is sketchy.

According to City Attorney Shawn Smith, "The code does not provide any insight (to its origins) but to show the ordinance was in existence when the code was revised and renumbered in 1986."

Such "blue laws" -- supposedly named so because they were originally printed on blue paper -- were originally drafted in the 17th and 18th centuries to enforce religious standards. Since then, many have been repealed, but the law remains rooted in some 14 states, according to the website of trade group Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, at prohibitionrepeal.com.

lneuhaus@keysnews.com

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