DANBURY -- Connecticut's prohibition against Sunday sales of alcohol is now history, pleasing customers who no longer have to cross the state line to pick up beer and wine for barbecues, picnics and dinner.
But some Danbury-area liquor store owners remain uncertain about whether the end of the blue law will translate into additional tax revenue for the state, or whether they will be working more hours to earn the same amount of money they made in six days.
While some store owners reported brisk business on Sunday, the first day that Sunday sales were legal, others called the customer turnout disappointing and said they would wait a few weeks to see if people's unfamiliarity with the expanded hours was the reason for the lack of business.
The new law permits the sale of beer, wine and spirits between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., but permittees have the option of opening later and closing earlier if business is slow.
"It's been terrible," said Bill Gardner of Wine World on Route 6 in Bethel, which was devoid of customers early in the afternoon. "We're all just opening because we have no choice. I'll try next weekend and the weekend after, then I may forget about it," Gardner said.
The number of customers stores attracted seemed to hinge, at least partly on the proximity to recreational areas, with establishments near lakes doing a better business, according to owners and employees.
"We got a lot of business between 10 and 11 a.m., said Alex Hannah, who works at NeJaime's Wine and Spirits on Danbury Road in New Milford. "People were grabbing some beer before heading out on (Candlewood) lake."
"I think were going to be getting a lot of business from campers," said Aaron Pierce, manager of County Wine and Spirits, located a few miles from Lake Waramaug in Washington.
A Wines `n' Such on Federal Road in Brookfield, employee Joe Visconti said he had seen between a dozen and 15 customers in the first 90 minutes, adding only time will tell if enough business will keep the doors open as late as the law allows.
"We're going to play it by ear. If it looks dead by 2 p.m., we'll just close up," he said.
"Business has been steady so far, but I think a lot of people still don't know that we`re open on Sunday," said Sharon Jalbert, owner of Midway Liquor in New Milford.
But customers like Valente Hernandez, of Danbury, were overwhelmingly in favor of the new hours.
"You have no idea how many times I've had to drive to New York to pick up beer on Sunday because people were coming over," he said as he left Exit 4 Liquor in Danbury. "It's great because I only live two blocks away from here, and driving to Brewster costs a gallon or two of gas."
Brookfield residents Joanna Olszewska and her mother, Elizabeth, took advantage of the Sunday opening to pick up some beer and wine at Stew Leonard's Wine and Spirits for a barbecue they were attending later in the day.
"It makes it more convenient when you have a party not to have to run out at the last minute, or go empty-handed," Joanna Olszewska said.
"We're out of beer and it's a sunny Sunday, so why not have a few cold ones in the refrigerator?" said Scott Merkel, of Brookfield. "I'm sure the people who have to work aren't happy, but it's convenient."
At C-Town supermarket in Danbury, which for the first time was also allowed to sell beer on Sunday, "Sales were really good," said manager Eric Fernandez.
But a few customers who tried to buy beer after 5 p.m. went home disappointed, he said.
At Mill Plain Package Store in Danbury, new owner David Benincasa said customers were waiting outside when he opened at 10 a.m., mainly to be able to say they were the first ones to buy beer on Sunday.
Benincasa, who bought the business in December, experienced a bit of role reversal when at least 20 or his first customers told him they were from New York, and said they were buying their liquor in Connecticut because stores here now open two hours earlier than they do on the other side of the line.
The change in buying habits was immediately felt at On the Border Wines and Liquor in Southeast, N.Y., just over the state line from Danbury, where the parking lot on Sunday used to be a sea of Connecticut license plates.
"About three-quarters of our Sunday customers used to come from Connecticut," Bibi Allie said.
A few Connecticut customers were at On the Border Sunday, but one Danbury resident who didn't want to give his name said the only reason he was there was the package store near his home didn't carry his favorite brand of beer.