Gov. Mark Dayton is ready to legalize Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota if — and it's a big 'if' — the state Legislature is ready to pass such a bill.
Minnesota is one of the last dozen states in the country with laws on the books that ban liquor stores from opening their doors on Sunday. In an interview with the Associated Press Friday, Dayton said he would be willing to sign off on a bill to lift that ban.
"Commerce is well enough established as seven days and nights a week now, " Dayton said. "For us to say it doesn't apply to this or doesn't apply to that really doesn't make much sense. There are an increasing number of Minnesotans for which Sunday isn't a religious holiday."
For good measure, Dayton said that if the Legislature wanted to give Minnesota car dealerships the legal ability to open on Sunday, he'd sign off on that bill too. But he wouldn't personally push for an end to the old blue laws.
"They've both become routine enough that if businesses want to open and can do so without detriment to the community they should be able to do so," he said.
But the main obstacle to a Sunday sales bill in the Legislature hasn't been the governor. It has been the Legislature itself.
Every year, Sunday liquor sale bills come up for debate, and every year they die in committee or get crushed on the floor of the House and Senate.
Last session, the House rejected a Sunday sales bill by a resounding vote of 106-21.
The Senate version of the bill never even made it to a floor vote.
It's too soon to tell whether Dayton's remarks will boost the bill's odds of passage, Schmitt said. Democratic Sen. Roger Reinert, whose Duluth district sits across the bridge from Wisconsin's seven-day-a-week liquor stores, plans to offer a Sunday sales bill again next session.
Every state that borders Minnesota, plus Canada, allows stores to sell beer and liquor on Sunday, much to the aggravation of some consumers here.
But Sunday sale opponents say lifting the ban could hurt small mom-and-pop liquor stores and simply spread six days of alcohol across seven days of business.
Representatives of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association point to the 2012 Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy, developed by state agencies, that includes, among other things, "maintaining limitations on alcohol availability including alcohol sales restricted to six days a week statewide."
Dayton spokesman Bob Hume told the Star Tribune that the governor didn't personally feel strongly about Sunday sales, but if the bill landed on his desk, he wouldn't veto it.
Associated Press reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report.