Sunday, February 05, 2006


It's Superbowl Sunday today. While I'm less planned today than I would've been if my beloved Bears had lasted two more games, I still intend to take in the game. I realized this afternoon that the subject of the Superbowl might help me frame a discussion that I've been meaning to post about for some time.

Today, and every Sunday, our pub in Holland is closed. Today and every Sunday, stores, restaurants and taverns in Holland are either closed or prohibited from selling alcohol. In the township, they can sell spirits, but not wine or beer. In nearby Zeeland, there are no party stores or pubs to close, as they are prohibited from existing.

Today, I'm not going to write a long diatribe about what exactly has happened or how we need to change it. I won't promise that it isn't coming, but it's not today's rant. Today, I want to talk about the "whys."

Beer ads will flood Superbowl XL which even has a major beer sponsor. The game will be the talk of the office water cooler, the feature of many "pools" and I imagine it might even make it into a sermon or two. However, if you're in Holland, unless you bought your beer on Saturday, you will not be allowed to watch the game with the luxury of a cold beer. For countless communities throughout the world, it will mean big business for sportsbars, party stores and taverns. All of this commerce notwithstanding, my argument against Sunday prohibition is not missed opportunity or sales dollars.

My main argument against prohibition is about judgment and contradiction. I struggle to find the rationale in prohibiting a product from sale that is deemed acceptable the other six days of the week. The thing about witnessing this prohibition that worries me the most is the judgment. Is our community telling us and others that the fruit of our labor is a bad thing? Has our community stamped the life-blood of our company as a sin?

I believe that food and drink are two tenants of living the good life. I believe in striving for quality experiences in both. I also believe in defending them against unfair judgment, so I have to ask, why is it that an otherwise legal consumer good is regulated with such arbitrary guidelines? Not arbitrary, you say? Well, than what is it? If it's religious, I'm confused; because I didn't think that was supposed to be part of our legislative process.

At New Holland we believe in contributing to our community, whether it's the brewing community, or our local community. We work towards opening our pub up to be a meeting place for people to enjoy each others company, discuss the issues of the day, and have a good laugh along the way. We believe we're a good corporate and social citizen, and we strive to be even better as we grow. Good citizen or not, the laws of the land have expressed a specific and binding prejudice against our product.

There is another contradiction besides the fact that we're only considered unacceptable one day a week. The second contradiction is what Superbowl Sunday brought to me. I may be presumptuous, but I believe many people have accepted the cultural shift in what is acceptable on Sunday. Many different types of companies, local and otherwise are open for business. Our community has adapted to changing times, however it remains ironic and contradictory that many of these changes have been accepted and are now considered normal, while purchasing a beer in Holland, MI on any given Sunday is illegal. Besides our shift to a more secular government, there just doesn't seem to be the outcry against other types of business, so I have to ask; why us?

Don't think it's odd yet? I've yet to prove this theory, but I'm pretty sure I can go to a gas station in Holland and buy a lottery ticket 7 days of the week. Gambling, one of the few industries more heavily regulated than alcohol, is legal. Granted, it's the State lottery (another contradiction best left for some other discussion), but it is gambling. I'm not against it either, but it brings attention to how arbitrary and prejudiced the prohibition of alcohol really is. Not only is gambling allowed, but nobody's up in arms about it.

I believe that a high majority of the people I've met through or in the brewery would agree that the prohibition of alcohol on Sundays seems like an odd historical anecdote from days of a bygone era. I doubt however, that many of them expect it to change. My question is why?

If, as I said, I'm not worried about the lost-business on Sunday, another question is why do anything about it? My answer is back to judgment. I don't feel it is right to let antiquated laws and regulations speak to the relevance of our company's lifeblood. I don't feel that a minority community voice should be able to label our work as bad, irrelevant or for that matter, illegal.

If our community really thinks that we should not be allowed to be sold throughout the week like so many other products and services, than I think we need to ask why and work towards a solution. If our community does not feel that way, yet our regulations and prohibitions reflect otherwise, than we simply need to adapt the ordinances to reflect today's community.

I'll leave the whats, hows and wherefores to another discussion. I'm going to go get a seat for the game and drink a beer.

Happy Superbowl,