Sunday liquor sales are up for another round of debate in the Minnesota Legislature.
The Senate Commerce Committee allowed a brief debate Monday on a bill that would allow Minnesota liquor stores to do business on Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas. There was no vote on the proposal, and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, wasn't’t expecting one.
“It’s a big change in state policies and historic state traditions,” said Reinert, who is pushing for Minnesota to join the 38 states that now allow Sunday liquor sales.
Opponents, who have worked to derail the proposal for years, say it would put small liquor stores at a serious disadvantage and would do little to raise extra tax revenue for the state – just spread six days of liquor sales across seven.
“Our customers have never asked us for Sunday sales,” said Maryann Campo, who opened Minneapolis’s South Lyndale Liquors with her husband in 1975. “The reason we oppose Sunday liquor sales is we don’t feel that it is financially feasible to do. We see this as no additional revenue and just additional costs
But Reinert said times have moved on since the days of the old blue laws. Most consumers buy the majority of their beer and liquor on the weekend and it makes little sense to wall off half the weekend from those sales.
“People opposed to this issue (say) ‘We don’t want to work on Sunday,’” he said. “I get that. I think that’s probably true of most people. But the reality is, not every restaurant is open 27/7, some are. Not every grocery store is open 24/7, some are. If you are successful in running your business, you can come up with a model that is a successful model for you and it doesn't’t involve us telling you when you have to be closed.”
Jason Alvey, owner of the Four Firkins liquor store in St. Louis Park, testified that he, for one, would love to be able to open his doors on Sundays.
“I pay rent 52 days a year that I’m not allowed to open my business and I think that’s very frustrating,” Alvey said. “Just because the majority of liquor stores don’t want to be open on a Sunday does not mean it should be a law.”
The commerce committee concluded the courtesy hearing without a vote on whether Sunday sales would be included in this year’s omnibus liquor bill. It would be an unlikely move, since the omnibus is usually a collection on non-controversial bills.
For those who don’t like the idea of liquor sales on any given Sunday, state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is offering compromise legislation that would allow sales on the one Sunday that really matters: Super Bowl Sunday.
“It seems like it’s common sense,” said Garofalo, who has voted against Sunday sales in the past.
Regular Sunday sales, Garofalo argues, will just raise the cost of alcohol, as stores pass along the extra expense of keeping their doors open seven days a week. “However, on Super Bowl Sunday, we will in fact see extra sales and extra revenue,” he said.
The bill would legalize sales on a single day -- Super Bowl Sunday 2014 -- as a test case. Garofalo has asked the House Commerce committee to consider his Super Bowl beer bill for inclusion in the House omnibus liquor bill.