The Minnesota Senate again rejected a push to repeal the state's 80-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales by a closer-than-ever margin, while a measure to allow the Sunday sale of growlers from taprooms became a step closer to law
After an hour-long debate, the Senate voted down the measure, 35-28. The amendment brought forward by Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, was part of the Senate's omnibus liquor bill, which easily passed the Senate, 51-11. The measure includes Sunday sales of growlers from taprooms, and the "Bloody Mary bill," which allows the 8 a.m. Sunday sales of liquor from bars and restaurants instead of 10 a.m.
Kent's amendment included a ban on Sunday liquor deliveries in efforts to appease the Teamsters, who have long stood in opposition to Sunday liquor sales.
Despite the defeat, advocates for Sunday sales say that there's still hope this session, pointing toward a potential House vote and the fact that six votes were gained this year. Last year, the Senate voted down a Sunday sales amendment 42-22. The House in 2013 rejected a similar measure 106-21.
"The short answer is, the House is the next step," said Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, a Sunday sales proponent. "If they can pass it, it goes into conference committee; I think we'll get it this year."
Though the debate was filled with the usual pro and anti-Sunday sales arguments, a number of lawmakers pushed for supporting Sunday sales if only because a repeal of the ban is inevitable.
"It's not ever if this happens, it's when," said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. "…It's going to happen eventually. Let's get this issue behind us and move on."
Others remained steadfast in their opposition to the measure, like Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, who repeated a concern heard among many lawmakers that a move will harm small businesses, and that she's voting against it.
Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said he would back the amendment with some hesitation. He was told by liquor store owners in his district that being open Sundays would not create higher profits, but he disagrees that small liquor stores really have a choice. Big box stores with more resources will force smaller stores to stay open to remain competitive, he added.
"I'm going to support it because I think the consumer has changed and our society has changed, but let's not fool ourselves that this is a free market stand." he said.
Before the vote, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, who led the push for Sunday sales, praised the thorough, constructive debate.
"This is the kind of conversation Minnesotans watch and feel good about," he said.
Kent, acknowledged the Sunday sales momentum as part of organized lobbying efforts, but said it's more than that.
"It feels like neighbors. Yes, there are obviously organized efforts like on Twitter, but it's individuals who are speaking up," she said, adding that the effort was not dead. "It's still April so it's not done yet."
Note: An earlier version of this post misstated Sen. Eric Pratt's Sunday sales vote. He supported the measure.