It’s Sunday, and the day’s options are nearly limitless. I just may buy a house today. Or maybe a yacht. Maybe I’ll hit a movie, then shop for a while. I may go and buy a gun, or a motorcycle. Then again, if I don’t go to the casino, I may pick up a pack of Marlboros and sit in the bar all day and, if I get bored, go to one of those clubs with exotic dancers. Who knows? I just may fall in love there and get married this very day — to another man even! But then again, I’ve been eyeing a car on Craigslist, and this Sunday I just may go and buy it, then drive to my buddy’s house and drink beer while watching the game on TV.
Ah, yes, sweet freedom — where a guy can buy whatever the market is selling, whenever he wishes. But hold on; I may want to buy a new car today, and I would be out of luck — it’s against the law in Minnesota. And those beers at my buddy’s house? I hope he remembered to stop at the liquor store on Saturday, because it’s against the law to sell liquor off-sale on Sunday.
Dr. Spock or a visitor from South Dakota would puzzle at this scenario. “It’s illogical,” the normative Spock would say; “We-ahll, that don’t make no sense,” would say the South Dakotan. And they’d both be right. So what gives? Are we Minnesotans just a tad more puritanical than space aliens and our heathen neighbors? Were it only so. No, the last vestiges of the old-time Sunday blue laws (which at one time prohibited nearly all Sunday commerce) are kept in place only by a well-financed car and liquor lobby that wants government off their backs in all cases except when it comes to Sunday sales.
And what retailer would not like this scenario? If hot dog vendors had a more powerful political action committee, they would no doubt pass a law prohibiting Sunday hot dog sales so they could go fishing confident their competitors would not be out there catching sales in their absence. But the free market is not supposed to work that way. If you choose to own a retail sales operation, you choose your own hours of operation. You don’t want to open on Sundays? God bless ya; don’t open. If you’re an employee who hates working Sundays, don’t go into retail sales, except of course, the car or liquor businesses.
Back when I introduced a bill in the state Senate to allow Sunday auto sales, the very best argument the car lobby came up with in opposition was that people like the fact that dealers are closed on Sundays so they can shop without being bothered, to which I offered some free advice: Tell your salespeople to stop bothering them! This year’s legislative effort to repeal the blue law prohibiting Sunday liquor sales met with similarly lame rationale to justify a government-mandated one-day-a-week holiday — it will lead to liquor sales in grocery stores. Uh-oh, the slippery slope; somebody call the NRA.
It’s time to toss both of these laws on the scrap heap of throwback legislation of a bygone era. Full disclosure: I am no longer married and therefore need no one to accompany me to a dealership on the one day we both have free, and I no longer drink (cause and effect, perhaps?), so the laws don’t affect me one whit. But the principle sure does.
Kevin Chandler is a lawyer and former state senator from White Bear Lake.