The liquor license at Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop will be suspended for 30 days in July, the city of Minneapolis ruled Monday, and the business must pay a $2,000 fine.
Owner Jim Surdyk opened for business Sunday, even though the repeal of the state’s 159-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales won’t go into effect until July 2.
The apparent disregard for the rules drew the ire of Minneapolis licensing manager Grant Wilson, who called Surdyk to tell him to close and then showed up at the liquor store Sunday afternoon, to no effect.
In a letter Monday, Wilson said Surdyk “knowingly and intentionally refused to abide by a lawful notice and order to cease such illegal sales” and ordered the fine and suspension of Surdyk’s license to sell alcohol.
Surdyk could not be reached for comment Monday, and Wilson declined a request for an interview.
Surdyk’s on East Hennepin is an institution in northeast Minneapolis founded in 1934 by Surdyk’s grandfather, Polish immigrant Joseph Surdyk. The business has evolved from a discount liquor store in the 1970s to a gourmet shop with fine wine and cheese. Surdyk told the Star Tribune 10 years ago that the store’s sales were $25 million per year, meaning a monthlong closure would likely be a multimillion dollar hit to the business.
Wilson said Surdyk could argue against the sanctions to the city’s Community Development and Regulatory Services committee. If Surdyk denies that he sold alcohol on Sunday, which would be difficult at this point, he has a right to an administrative hearing.
According to state law, the city can revoke an establishment’s liquor license or suspend it for up to 60 days if the business fails to follow rules related to alcoholic beverages.
Jacob Frey, the Minneapolis City Council member whose ward includes lower northeast Minneapolis, said he is open to possibilities other than the suspension of the store’s liquor license, such as a substantial fine if it’s legal, or spreading the suspension over several months to limit the impact on employees. But the case is now quasi-judicial, Frey said, and there are procedural limitations.
“Knowingly disregarding the law has a significant price tag, and that price tag should be paid by the owner, not the employees who had no part in the decision,” Frey said.
Sunday wasn’t the first time a Surdyk acted prematurely after a change in state liquor law. Jim’s father, Bill Surdyk, said that when Minnesota’s so-called fair trade law, which set minimum prices on liquor, was set to be repealed in 1969, he jumped the gun and started advertising lower prices ahead of time.
“I stuck my neck out on that one, but when the [licensing] commissioner came around, he saw the signs and didn’t say anything about them,” Bill Surdyk, who died in 2000, told the Star Tribune in 1994.
The head start led to an upswing in business that eventually established Surdyk’s as a Twin Cities landmark and boosted him into near-celebrity status.
A week ago, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill rescinding a ban on Sunday liquor sales that has been in place since Minnesota’s statehood in 1858. Jim Surdyk had never been a proponent of repealing the ban, said Kelly Eull, a Twin Cities lawyer who’s been pushing for Sunday sales for six years.
“He has not been actively supportive of Sunday liquor sales, by any stretch,” Eull said.
But a few days after the bill was signed, Surdyk decided to open on Sunday, four months early.
“We just decided to open up,” Surdyk said on Sunday. “The governor signed the bill, everyone wants the bill, they voted for it, why not be in business?”