Marion revelers, rejoice — it’s about to be a little easier to have a Sunday Funday.
Marion’s City Council on Monday approved two changes to the city’s liquor ordinance that will allow expanded alcohol sales on Sundays — one allows bars (like John Brown’s on The Square and Martini Joe’s) that don’t do more than 50 percent of food sales to open on Sundays (but they will only be allowed to serve beer and wine), and the other extends the hours bars and restaurants can operate on Sundays.
Previously, thirsty patrons could only imbibe in public establishments from 1 to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Those hours are now extended to between noon and 10 p.m.
John Brown, who owns the namesake bar on Marion’s Square, welcomed the news that his establishment would be allowed to open Sundays, pointing out that he misses out on business on a day televised sporting events would bring fans in for a cold one as they root on their teams. Indeed, a quick check of the NFL schedule on Sundays indicates many games start at noon — previously a time too early to go to a sports bar that would have been allowed to open under the food requirements.
The changes seem like a logical step for Marion. Anthony Rinella, who wrote the changes to the liquor ordinance, said the changes would level the playing field among the booze-slinging games in town.
In a city with such a business-friendly reputation, it’s a no-brainer. Cheers.
Initially, the proposal had been to extend the alcohol-selling hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., but Mayor Bob Butler rebuffed, saying, “I do not want establishments selling alcohol on Sunday morning while church is going on.”
On the other hand, maybe the drinkers oppose church going on at the same time they’d like to tipple? (I jest. But as a nonreligious person for whom Sunday looks no different than Saturday, I’m puzzled that, for example, when on a Sunday morning shopping run in Carbondale to prep for a Sunday evening dinner party, I wasn’t able to buy wine, and had to return later in the day to do so.)
But in some ways, I get it. It’s tricky sometimes to balance the free market with personal freedoms — our country has struggled to walk the line between social regulation and an every-man-for-himself ethos. It’s a quandary that’s not limited to Southern Illinois, and there are many schools of thought along the spectrum. Government should protect its people without being overbearing, and should allow business to operate freely without hurting people.
It’s particularly tricky in a college town — like Marion’s neighbor, and my home, Carbondale — where students on the brink of legal consumption may partake in a party (and perhaps partake in one too many).
When discussing with a friend a couple of months ago Carbondale’s plan to allow open containers of alcohol in a certain part of downtown during the weekend before the eclipse, he was apprehensive.
Liquor laws are there to keep the lowest common denominators in check, he argued. Sure, if we could all behave, it’d be great to ease restrictions on the sauce, but would we all behave?
It turns out, we did. Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams said there were only three minor citations issued throughout the weekend before eclipse day.
On the open container experiment, Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said, “I personally would like to see us keep doing it. I think it’s just a great initiative, it was self-policed as far as staying in the area that we designated.”
The Friday before the eclipse, I sat with some friends at a picnic table at Hangar 9, where various people cycled in and out just to take a walk with a beer in hand. The Strip was alive with locals basking in the novelty — and the sheer freedom — of it, in a town known for having a Puritanical streak in response to out-of-control parties of generations past.
For me, the eased restrictions were welcome when warm weather makes it impossible for me to enjoy sitting indoors. I sit inside all day, in an office that pretty much has no windows, under the glare of fluorescent lights, staring at a screen (but I love it, I swear). When I get off work, depending on the day, I look forward to a few things — a walk outside, maybe a beer. My favorite thing to do on eclipse weekend was sit outside and watch the people go by.
It was an experiment in Carbondale that had some people nervous. I think we’ve proved the city has matured to well above figurative legal age.
On liquor, Southern Illinois cities are letting loose a little — I urge all of us who enjoy a drink to enjoy responsibly, and look forward to an even freer future.
ALEE QUICK is digital editor of The Southern. Her columns include her own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-351-5807. Follow her on Twitter: @the_quickness