For Dana Rose, Sundays used to be for relaxing.
Last July, that changed. Since Minnesota began to allow alcohol to be sold in stores on Sundays, Rose, who co-owns a pair of liquor stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, has had to get used to being open seven days a week.
“Sundays are just convenient for consumers,” said Rose, who said he feels obligated to open his store Sunday so he doesn’t lose business. “I totally understand that, but as an owner that has to work seven days a week now, I’m against it. One day off is necessary. … We have families. We have a social life.”
Minnesota ended a more than century-old ban on Sunday liquor sales on July 2 last year. Sales are allowed from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
While many customers rejoiced over the freedom to get their booze fix on a Sunday, the additional business day has posed challenges for many small and independently owned liquor stores.
Rose, who co-owns Sharrett’s Liquor Store on the corner of University and Raymond avenues in St. Paul and Skol Liquors in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, pays his employees time and a half to work on Sundays. While Rose noticed that he sold more bottles of sparkling wine on Sundays (likely to those making mimosas for brunch), the sales didn’t offset the extra costs of being open.
“Now our Saturday plus Sunday isn’t even equal to what a Saturday used to be,” Rose said. “We had everyone trained to come before 10 p.m. Saturday and people would do that.”
Lisa Impagliazzo, owner of North Loop Wine and Spirits in Minneapolis, said the growing downtown market and nearby events like Twins baseball games and concerts mean Sunday sales have not had a negative impact on her overall business. The upside has been minimal, however.
“We add staff and payroll to cover what we use to do in six days,” she said. “But you need to respond to customer needs and we are trying to find the balance.”
The full year of data on alcohol beverage taxes collected by the state of Minnesota isn’t available yet, according to a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The data will provide the best picture of the overall impact of the end of the Sunday sales ban.
Andy LaRose, a craft beverage industry specialist in the Twin Cities office of the accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly, said the large liquor-store chains are seeing about 10 percent growth with the additional day of sales.
“The people who are going to get all that residual business on a Sunday are going to probably be near the shopping network areas next to SuperTargets or Costcos,” said LaRose.
Mom-and-pop stores are in a more perilous position because they are more restricted in their funds and have to deal with rising wage costs and possible out-of-stock items, he said.
Sunday sales have been even a greater blow to convenience stores that sell lighter, 3.2 beer. Sunday beer sales have fallen as much as 80 percent in convenience stores and gas stations since the Sunday liquor ban ended, said Lance Klatt, executive director of the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association.
“These second- and third-generation small, family-owned corner stores need additional categories to help them survive,” Klatt said in an e-mail. “Full strength beer category in these stores would really help an industry that is always being targeted and discriminated against.”
But some are seeing an upside in the Sunday sales change.
Nowak’s Liquors in West St. Paul stays busy on Sundays, said manager Nick Burth.
“As someone who has driven to Wisconsin a couple times myself, I like it,” Burth said. “We should have had it years ago. It’s good for us. We make a good couple thousand at least every Sunday.”
Jim Surdyk, owner of Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop in Minneapolis, made headlines last year when he sold liquor in his store on Sunday, months before the law took effect. He was later fined and his liquor license suspended for three days.
“I don’t think they are going to drink more because you are open another day,” Surdyk said, in a recent interview.
However, his store is selling more cheese and deli items on Sunday as people come in to buy alcohol, he said.
“I think the customer comes and feels better about shopping,” Surdyk said. “We can talk to them about wine and cheese and things like that. Sometimes they are a little bit more relaxed than on Friday and Saturdays.”
It’s important for shop owners to get creative with promotions on Sundays to help bring people to the store, he said. For example, Surdyk’s had a rescue dog adoption event in the shop on a recent Sunday.
“It takes a promotional thing that you have to just work on and make it more interesting for the people to come,” he said. “Make it an event.”