Steve Burwell, who owns a Roseville liquor store that sits less than half a mile from a warehouse-style liquor retailer, isn’t yet sure if he’ll open seven days a week under the all-but-certain repeal of Minnesota’s long-standing Sunday sales ban. He said he wishes he didn’t have to decide at all.
“I’m really disappointed,” Burwell said Monday, around the same time the Minnesota Senate voted to kill the ban. “We’ve had a system that’s worked very well. They should have left it alone.”
Burwell owns Fairview Wine and Spirits, just up the road from a Total Wine & More. Big-box retailers have emerged in recent years as daunting competitors for municipal and mom-and-pop liquor stores, some of which have seen sales decline. If the repeal bill becomes law, as now looks likely, owners like Burwell expect higher overhead but no corresponding rise in revenue.
For every small-business owner like Burwell, there are many more Minnesotans who find the current ban antiquated or absurd.
“It’s about time,” said Jake Skillings, a 33-year-old Minneapolis resident on his way into Central Avenue Liquors. Skillings said the ability to buy booze on Sundays won’t be “life-changing,” but added that the prohibition “doesn’t make any sense.”
Todd McCoy, a manager at Central Avenue Liquors, said the store would adopt Sunday hours. But he thinks the change is much ado about nothing.
“All the customers think it’s just amazing and this life-changing thing,” McCoy said. “It’s going to be the same stuff in the store that was there on Saturday.”
Burwell, who has run his Roseville store for more than 30 years, said he believes Sunday hours would simply spread six days of sales over seven instead — while adding to other costs of doing business. As evidence, he pointed to what happened when a nearby competitor started staying open later.
Burwell responded by staying open an hour later. “We gained nothing, but we had to do it because the guy up the street was doing it,” he said.
Dayton expected to sign bill
Monday’s vote in the Senate followed the vote a week earlier in the House to repeal the ban. The two chambers still must settle on a final version of the measure before sending it to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has said he would allow it to become law. If that’s how it plays out, liquor stores could open Sundays starting in July.
Scott Neal, Edina city manager, is already preparing for the impact to his city’s three municipal liquor stores.
“This couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Neal said. Since Total Wine and other large liquor retailers opened, the city’s municipal stores have seen profits drop from about $1.5 million in 2012 to about $650,000 in 2015, he said.
Going forward, the city plans to expand selection at its stores, introduce a customer loyalty program and even deliver purchases to customers. Profits pay for city recreational services and other capital improvements.
“We knew this was going to happen some day,” Neal said after the Senate vote. “We’re going to compete in a new environment, and we’re going to do the best we can to make our stores profitable because our residents are the ultimate beneficiaries of that.”
Just over the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, John Kromer, owner of Spirit Seller Liquors in Hudson, anticipates he will be seeing fewer Minnesota plates in his parking lot.
“A lot of Minnesotans come over on Sunday,” Kromer said. Like others in the industry, he predicted that consumers eventually would push for liquor stores to be open on Sundays. He’s been watching the debate in Minnesota for more than a decade.
Said Kromer: “I’m surprised it took as long as it did.”