When Minneapolis licensing manager Grant Wilson called Surdyk’s liquor store shortly after noon on March 12 to speak to the owner or manager, the person on the other line said the store was too busy.
Which was odd, since it was Sunday.
A search warrant filed this week details store owner Jim Surdyk’s apparent lack of concern when confronted by officials for opening his store in violation of the law, a legal transgression that could a cost his store a month’s revenue when the city slapped a 30-day suspension on it starting in July — the month the new law authorizing Sunday liquor sales goes into effect. City spokesman Casper Hill said Friday that an attorney representing Surdyk’s told the city that the store will not dispute whether violations occurred.
“There are ongoing discussions with the attorney about other matters,” Hill said.
According to the search warrant, which requests sales data and surveillance video from the day in question, authorities were first alerted to Surdyk’s renegade sale tactic when assistant city attorney Joel Fussy saw a media report indicating that the family-owned liquor store in northeast Minneapolis was open. Wilson then called the store to confirm it was open for business.
Wilson eventually reached Surdyk and told him to close the store immediately because it was a violation of state law and the current city ordinance. Surdyk was told the new state law didn’t take effect for several months, and Surdyk replied “that the governor signed the bill and that was good enough for me,” the warrant said.
At 1:25 p.m., Wilson drove to the store to confirm again that it was open and advised Surdyk to shut down his business or he would face a civil citation. Wilson said he would take additional measures if Surdyk didn’t comply, the warrant said.
The entire exchange was captured by local media.
At 2:27 p.m., Carla Cincotta, an agent from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division, called Surdyk and told him to close down. Surdyk asked if he and all his customers would be arrested if he didn’t comply, the warrant said.
The agent said that only he was breaking the law. She asked again whether he was going to close the business, and he said “maybe” and hung up.
Two agents were sent to the store to take pictures of the illegal activity and Surdyk was informed he would potentially be charged with a gross misdemeanor.
Surdyk’s customers learned about the Sunday sale through e-mail. Surdyk’s also issued a social-media blast saying “Open Today,” followed by a short message that the store would be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We just decided to open up,” Surdyk told the Star Tribune on that day. “We’re here, we’re busy, it’s great. People are happy to be here.”
Surdyk said he did not consult with any authorities before opting to open his store. It was a decision that he claimed was in line with his family’s tradition, dating to a 50-year-old state law that permitted stores to offer discounts on liquor for the first time.
“My father was the first one to discount liquor way back in the 1960s, and he didn’t wait till July to do it,” Surdyk said.