The Minnesota Legislature is in session — and that means there is a proposed bill to allow Sunday liquor sales. The perennial topic is back — only this time it appears to have a better chance to become law. That would be a practical move for buyers and sellers of beer, wine and other spirits.
Minnesota has been a pioneering state on many issues. Yet when it comes to alcohol sales, the state has been stuck with outdated rules for too long. Ours is one of only 12 states in the U.S. that bans Sunday liquor sales, a restriction that dates back to Prohibition and even earlier. Lawmakers voted it into statute in 1935, but it had been in place since Minnesota became a state in 1858.
Although repeal legislation has been proposed numerous times over the years, it’s always been defeated. Opponents argue that liquor-related problems, such as alcoholism and drunken driving, would increase. They’re also worried that smaller stores would be forced to stay open to be competitive. Those and other concerns have prevailed for years, including 2016 when the House voted down the repeal, 70-56.
However, the November election gave Republicans control of both houses of the Legislature and ushered in 39 new legislators. The newcomers appear to be more supportive of Sunday sales than were the legislators they replaced. Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt, long sympathetic to Sunday sales, has co-authored a repeal bill this year and predicts that his House colleagues will pass it.
Sundays in America have changed. While the day is still one of worship for some, it is a time to work and shop for many.
Minnesotans can buy alcohol at taverns and restaurants or fill a growler at a brewery on Sundays. But those who want to shop at a liquor store must travel across the border, meaning that Minnesota retailers lose revenue to Iowa, the Dakotas and Wisconsin.
In addition, polls have shown that state residents support the change. In May 2013, Public Policy Polling found that 62 percent of Minnesotans wanted Sunday liquor sales. Furthermore, repealing the law would not require liquor sellers to stay open on Sundays. Individual stores could choose whether Sunday hours would be worthwhile.
Earlier this week, a repeal bill passed a House Committee on a 15-4 vote, including four representatives voting “yes” who had been “no” votes last year.
“The state should not be in the business of dictating when your [business] doors are open,” said Sen. Mark Koran, a freshman Republican from North Branch and a proponent of Sunday sales.
Prohibiting liquor sales on one day of the week is an antiquated policy that makes no sense in modern times. Lawmakers should recognize that and put this perennial issue to rest once and for all.