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    Sunday Liquor Sales Booming

    Snack and tobacco offerings bite into convenience business.

    ERIE, Pa. -- As Sunday sales of alcohol boom in Erie and other Pennsylvania cities, other states are beginning to jump on the bandwagon. New York became the 26th state to allow liquor sales on Sundays, following Delaware's announcement in mid-May.

    Jonathan Newmann, chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB), said Sunday sales of alcohol are booming since February, when 61 stores began a two-year pilot run of allowing business that day. The retailers' plan to attract Sunday business includes cross-merchandising traditional snack items, as well as cigarettes and other tobacco products.

    "It's exceeding our expectations," Newmann said. "The public has spoken."

    Newmann said projections show Pennsylvania's net revenue from Sunday sales could "exceed $10 million a year."

    Jeff Aman, district manager for Erie, Pa.-based Centre Wine & Spirits, said Sunday sales made a strong showing locally. Erie store's sales are usually about $8,000 every Sunday, but sales skyrocketed to nearly $16,000 over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

    Holiday sales soared across the state also. While normal Sunday sales in the 61 stores that offer them linger at about $350,000, Memorial Day Sunday sales hit $711,445, according to a report in the Erie Times-News. It's only to be expected Sunday hours would be a hit in Pennsylvania and states across the nation, said Lisa Hawkins, a spokeswoman with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

    Members of the council, who lobby for legislators to repeal Prohibition-era laws regarding liquor, agree it's only "a matter of time" before the remaining 24 states open sales to Sundays, Hawkins said. "If states don't start selling on Sundays, consumers are going to demand it," she said.

    Because many households have two working adults, most shopping gets pushed to the weekend, Hawkins said. With many states around the nation facing tough financial times, it's the perfect way to bring in more revenue.

    "Everyone wins," Hawkins said. "The states get more revenue. The consumers get more convenience."

    In other states, she said, retailers have more flexibility through Sunday sales, but in Pennsylvania, the state has the monopoly on liquor sales.

    Earlier this month, the LCB also announced that four discount liquor stores would open in some border areas of the state -- Philadelphia, Easton, Gettysburg and Hermitage. Three more are set to open in early 2004, but none are planned for the Erie area.

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