Pinellas Co. considers changing alcohol sale times

- Pinellas county's "blue laws" are in play again, for the third time since 2003. The term refers to Sunday-only prohibitions and restrictions on activities deemed immoral or irreverent. 

Wednesday, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman asked the county's Council of Mayors, "What is the reason for keeping this archaic law in place? I don't think we ought to ask why should we do it, but really why wouldn't we do it?"

Kriseman was specifically referring to the current county ordinance that allows liquor sales to start at 8 a.m. Monday through  Saturday, but not until 11 a.m.Sundays.

He later told FOX 13 News, "I've experienced it myself, being at a grocery store on Sunday morning buying groceries for the week, and picking up a couple of bottles of wine to have with dinner, and being told you have to put those back- it's not 11 o'clock yet." 

The 11 a.m. start time for Sunday dates back to 2003, when it was changed from 1 p.m. on Sundays to accommodate Sunday brunches. In 2010, the closing time for bars was changed from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. to match Hillsborough County's closing time.

Kriseman is trying to find a consensus among Pinellas county's 24 municipalities to present to county commissioners, who ultimately set the time limits. The conversation quickly spread to the other days of the week. 

"What's the relevance of 8 o'clock?" Largo Mayor Woody Brown asked his fellow mayors, pointing out most charter fishing trips leave the dock earlier than 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday. 

"So if those tourists who are from out of town want to pick up a six pack to drink when they're fishing, they're out of luck if they're leaving before 8 o'clock?" Brown argued. 

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the mayors he sees no public safety issues with changing the hours of alcohol sales. Later, he told FOX 13 News he would even be alright with 24/7 alcohol sales. 

"People being able to buy what they want, when they want it, when it's all legal, is all fine - which it should be," Gualtieri said. "The world doesn't come to an end." 

The sheriff said most people drink responsibly, and law enforcement already deals with those who do not around the clock. 

In the coming weeks, the mayors will discuss the potential changes with their respective city councils and city commissioners, then attempt to reach a consensus that can be delivered to the Pinellas County Commission.  Individual cities could then adopt or opt-out of the new county limitations.

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