At this time last year, we were gearing up for the 2014 legislative session and were about to unveil a package of seven different Sunday sales repeal options. We knew momentum was surging for some form of repeal, and we knew the majority of the public was supportive. Removing the ban on Sunday liquor sales was, and still is, a bipartisan issue that many legislators can stand behind.
While we didn’t accomplish all we set out to do, we did achieve a few small victories last year. We were successful in allowing the burgeoning craft brew industry to open taprooms on Sunday, as well as putting into the law the ability to fill any growler at any brewery or taproom. While steps forward, these were even less than baby steps. This year is time for more. Much more.
A new map shows that some 77 percent of Minnesota’s population lives in a legislative district located within 30 miles of a state border.
Additionally, every state and province bordering Minnesota allows Sunday liquor sales. Minnesota first enacted the Sunday sales ban in 1935, and today the state remains one of only 12 across the nation that still defends this post-Prohibition blue law.
While a national leader in so many other areas, we’re not only behind the curve on this one — we’ve become an outlier. Minnesotans are growing increasingly frustrated with this outdated and inconvenient law, and the time has come for full repeal of the Sunday sales ban.
The data show that shoppers tend to spend more on Sundays — an impressive 21 percent more — than any other day of the week. This tells us that Sunday has become an important shopping day in the American economy because of one simple idea: convenience. Society has changed. Most families now include both parents working full-time; single parents lead an increasing number of households, and the millennial generation continues to gain in purchasing power. Stores open earlier and stay open later in the name of service and convenience, and to meet the consumer needs resulting from these demographic changes. Minnesota’s ban on Sunday liquor sales is an outdated reminder of the way things used to be.
However compelling consumer choice may be for some, we recognize it won’t convince everyone. However, we must also consider the economic argument. Many potential customers either choose on a Sunday to not make a purchase at all, or to make that purchase in a neighboring state. By allowing Sunday sales, it is estimated that Minnesota sales volume would increase by 5 to 7 percent annually. These new sales would be worth between $7.6 million and $10.6 million in new direct tax revenues for the state. No one argues the fact that Minnesota is losing revenue over our borders; they only argue the amount. Minnesota is leaving money on the table, and our neighboring states and provinces are the beneficiaries.
In the last decade, 16 states have rolled back blue laws, and a total of 38 states now allow Sunday sales. A considerable amount of research has been done on the states that have most recently repealed these laws, and the findings create a strong argument for Minnesota to follow suit. One economics professor at George Mason University found that in the four states to repeal the law most recently, stores actually opening on Sunday experienced increased sales between 12.4 and 24.3 percent. Total state sales (including stores not opening on Sundays) increased between 7.1 and 11.1 percent.
We believe that by allowing Sunday sales of alcohol, state revenue will grow, consumers and businesses will have more choice, and state law in Minnesota will join the 21st century. Recent polling shows that more than 60 percent of Minnesotans are in favor of repealing the Sunday liquor sales ban. Only a small but vocal contingent of special interests at the Capitol keeps this law on the books.
Let’s consider last year a warm-up. Repeal of the Sunday sales ban is a truly bipartisan issue, as represented by our partnership. Additionally, it also has the support of both Gov. Mark Dayton and Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt.
This year seems like the perfect opportunity to put this blue law behind us and demonstrate our ability to work together on real reform that benefits both consumers and businesses. Now is the time to repeal the ban on Sunday alcohol sales in Minnesota.
Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, is a member of the Minnesota Senate. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, is a member of the Minnesota House.