It is 7:32 a.m. on a beautiful Sunday morning in mid-summer. Birds are chirping, crepe myrtles and magnolias are in full bloom, the green pollen has long since stopped falling and the sun is shining. The back porch, the Sunday newspapers and the second cup coffee of coffee provide solace. And then it begins. Noise from a nearby lawn mower, weed trimmer, leaf blower or some device with a loud motor invades the neighborhood tranquility.
It didn’t use to be this way. With apologies to the Spanky and Our Gang, “Sundays will never be the same.”
When I grew up, Sundays were the so-called day of rest. Between Blue Laws, companies wanting to give workers a day off, religious influence and the fact that most retail stores were closed, things were kind of slow on Sundays. I’m not really sure when the change began, but it seems that the early seventies should be given consideration. That’s when indoor shopping malls came along. They gave shoppers an opportunity to get out and spend money on a Sunday afternoon.
Whatever the cause and the timing, Sundays have changed. Oh they are still the same in many ways, for sure. Traffic is lighter and recreation takes center stage for many people. Families still find it a good day to get together.
Religion plays a big role in Sundays and the culture of Mississippi. Indeed, the latest Gallup Poll survey (2016) revealed that 59 percent of Mississippi residents are “very religious.” In contrast, only 21 percent of Vermonters responded similarly. A 2009 Gallup survey reported that 63 percent of Mississippi residents went to church weekly or almost weekly. Nationally, only 32 percent of respondents in the Gallup survey said they went to church weekly or almost weekly. In 2017, 38 percent of adults said they attended religious services weekly or almost every week. When Gallup began asking this question in 2008, that figure was 42 percent. Obviously, religion is playing a smaller role in everyday life and that it is reflected in relaxing of laws related to Sunday sales.
So what about Sunday laws in Mississippi?
Answer: The Mississippi Legislature has left it up to the local communities on how to handle Sunday sales.
Section 21-19-39 of the Mississippi Code, as amended, provides that “(1) From and after July 1, 1986, the governing authorities of counties and municipalities may adopt, in the manner provided by law, ordinances regulating, restricting and prohibiting the sale of goods and services at retail on the day of the week commonly called ‘Sunday.’ Such ordinances may regulate, restrict or prohibit such sales by types and kinds of goods and services and may also regulate and restrict the hours during which such goods and services may be sold or offered for sale.”
One item that has gotten a lot of attention is the sale of alcohol on Sundays. Not surprising, since some counties in the state are still wrestling with the idea of even allowing alcohol sales.
In Jackson, restaurants can’t serve alcoholic drinks until noon on Sundays. My experience has been that some restaurants comply fully, while others fudge a bit. I won’t publicly name the restaurant in Jackson, but there is one that has a special on bottomless Bloody Mary’s on Sunday. It doesn’t seem to matter what time you visit on Sunday morning. Then there are others that are very strict. One restaurant actually takes drink orders between 11:30 and noon and then the server says “I’ll bring your drink at noon. Hats off to the Mississippi Department of Revenue for publishing the list of local ordinances regarding alcohol on Sundays, and every other day for that matter. You can find it on the web www.dor.ms.gov/ABC/Pages/Hours-of-Sale.aspx.
Many businesses that have historically been closed on Sunday continue to do so regardless of whether the law allows them to open. Consumers wonder why automobile dealerships and band banks, for example, are closed on Sunday. I suspect it won’t be long before anything can be bought and sold on Sunday. On the other hand, many businesses see Sunday as a time that their employees should have time with their families and have a so-called day of rest.
The most well-known business that’s closed on Sunday is Chick-fil-A. It is a practice began by founder Truett Cathy. A video on the company’s website explains: “So while we’re off today, we hope you can be with your family and friends. That’s the thought behind each Sunday story – delivering recipes, activities and inspiration that might bring you a little closer together.”
With all of this change in society and culture, it seems appropriate to recall some words from a Jimmy Buffet song – “Come Monday, it’ll be alright.”
» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His email is phil@philhardwick. com.
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