The Legislature is now in session, and it's a safe bet that some new statutes or revisions of current laws concerning alcohol sales will be bandied about.

Ever since Prohibition, Minnesota's alcohol bylaws have been an odd, often daft, hodgepodge of rules, restrictions and loopholes, occasionally infused with logic and common sense.

In many cases, the conventional wisdom about these statutes is, well, a bit tipsy. I lived here for decades toting around the wrong impressions about store hours, unfinished restaurant wine and grocery-store sales.

The legal layers are a little like wine: The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don't know. So here are a few details many folks might not realize about state statutes and local laws:

There can be only one store per city for each franchise: Apparently in an effort to avert monopolies, the state of Minnesota restricts chains to one outlet per community. That's why there's just one Haskell's in Minneapolis and the same number of MGMs in Oakdale as in St. Paul.

Stores can stay open later than you might think: Legal hours of operation vary by community, but they generally run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Sunday. St. Paul stores must close at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and many if not most Minneapolis retailers opt to do so as well. Business slows down after 8, but the hours might have more to do with the quality than the quantity of customers.

By the way, there is one day with a mandatory, statewide 8 p.m. closing time: Christmas Eve.

It's OK to bring home an unfinished bottle of wine: Just because you might have over-ordered in a restaurant doesn't mean you have to be over-served. Put a cork in it and bring it on home -- in the trunk, lest you run afoul of laws prohibiting an open bottle inside the car.

Minnesota wine (or at least half of it) is Minnesota-grown: It's not included in their brand names, but most of the state's vintners are officially "farm wineries," and with good reason: It's the only way they can operate a tasting room, or sell their fermented juice, or be open to pour and sell on Sundays. The catch, which many embrace and a few detest, is that at least 51 percent of their wine must be made from Minnesota-grown grapes.

You can buy wine by mail: As with most of these laws, there is a limit -- no more than two cases per year from a given source -- but this does allow consumers to buy not only mailing-list wines that aren't available in Minnesota but also other small-production bottles that are highly allocated here. An adult signature is required for receipt of delivery.

Not only can we order wines from most states, but people in those states can have Minnesota's wines shipped to them. There are some states with tighter strictures, so we cannot purchase wines made in South Dakota or Alabama. Hey, maybe these lawmakers are looking out for us after all.

For a complete list of where we can order wine, see

Bill Ward •