The debate over Sunday liquor sales burned on Wednesday, where backers and detractors of a repeal of the state’s 80-year-old ban stated their cases to lawmakers, with rationale ranging from profit margins to libertarianism.
The House Commerce Committee held an informational hearing on the bill by Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, though no vote was taken. Regardless, dozens of witnesses testified on the bill in a packed hearing room.
Dave Erickson, owner of D’Erick’s Tower Liquors near Lake Vermilion said it’s frustrating to turn down customers year-round who stop in his adjoining bar and can’t take a bottle of wine or six-pack home with them on a Sunday.
“As a bar owner, I hate seeing all the visitors, the tourists if you will, come to Minnesota and not be able to enjoy what they probably enjoy at home,” Erickson said.
In the midst of a struggling Iron Range economy, where hundreds of miners were just laid off, “This would be just one little thing for a little economic growth,” he said.
Other liquor store owners, like Terry Furlong, owner of Furlong’s liquor in Oakdale, say staying open seven days a week will only create more costs without the profits.
“Our current regulations are a fine balance between the desires of consumers, public health and public safety,” he said.
Loon’s Sunday sales bill, like many of its House and Senate companions, failed to receive a hearing before committee deadlines passed, and there is no full Sunday sales repeal in the House liquor reform bill—though it’s possible that it may come up as a floor amendment when the bill is debated on the House floor.
Loon thanked Committee Chair Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, for giving the bill a hearing, although absent a vote. She said she respects the opinions of liquor store owners that do not want a repeal in the interests of having a day off, but added that her measure would not force stores to be open. (Liquor store owners insist they would have to remain open to keep up with competition.)
“This is not such an easy cut-and-dried issue,” she said. “It’s not my goal to say that every small business who sells liquor has to be open on Sunday. I would never say that. This is just to give other businesses that opportunity.”