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Letter to the Editor: Sunday liquor sales resolution based on rhetoric

Imagine if the state of Minnesota told a small business owner in Perham or elsewhere in Otter Tail County; "We don't think you can profit selling sandwiches or hardware or gasoline or doughnuts or pizza on Wednesdays, so you and all other businesses that sell those items have to close on Wednesdays. It's state law."

That seems far-fetched, intrusive and unrealistic, right? Well, it happens every Sunday to liquor store owners and consumers based on an archaic law that has nothing to do with regulating the sale of alcohol any longer. What is worse is that the Perham City Council passed a resolution to support this prohibition.

In (Bob) Dreger's statement to the council before the resolution passed, he stated in his opinion that Sunday liquor sales was a bad idea in the long run for communities with municipal stores saying in the end, the citizens would suffer. Unfortunately, Mr. Dreger's statement is short on facts and premised on a whole lot of rhetoric.

Minnesota is just one of 12 states that still force small business package stores to close on Sunday. Sixteen since 2002 have repealed the prohibition and another 22 did not have this blue law in place. So we have plenty of factual evidence to draw upon in changing the legislation.

Dreger commented that Sunday sales would cut into sales, taxpayers would be negatively affected, and minors would have greater access to alcohol. What we know is that none of this has happened in those other 38 states, in fact it is to the contrary — sales increased in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia and Washington, among the most studied states on Sunday sales change.

First, as the manager of Landmark Liquor, Dreger knows, or should know, that liquor stores, just like any other business have fixed costs that are in place seven days a week, 52 weeks a year (heating, cooling, insurance, depreciation and many other costs) with the only cost it does not have on Sunday is personnel costs. All other retail stores have the opportunity to recoup those costs except liquor stores. It simply does not make sense. Those that say that huge costs are incurred because of Sunday Sales do not take into account that the only real incremental cost on Sunday is that of personnel costs.

Second, Dreger implies, indirectly, that strong liquor and beer is not a single destination product and will affect 3.2 sellers pushing for change. The 3.2 sales is arguably a whole other issue, as well as why your only option to purchase strong beer and liquor in Perham is a municipal, which to consumers makes little sense. However, what we do know is that it is not just beer or liquor purchased in other states when customers drive to Fargo, Grand Forks (in North Dakota) or elsewhere crossing the border for purchases - they are also buying gas, grabbing lunch or even shopping at the mall. Minnesota tax coffers and Perham businesses miss all those peripheral sales and economic activity as well.

Third, Sunday sales take place at all those places selling 3.2 that Dreger mentioned plus bars, restaurants and sporting events in Perham. To state that minors would have more access to beer implies that those currently trained to card for 3.2 sales and at Landmark Monday through Saturday, would all of a sudden no longer be competent to do their job on Sunday. Simply a scare tactic, not reality, nor has it been proven true in any other Sunday sale state.

Bottom line is this - there are no legitimate policy reasons for Minnesota to continue to interfere for one day each week with a tiny segment of one industry. Minnesota liquor store owners should have the right to open on Sundays if they choose and the marketplace allows. If they do not want to open then stay closed. If it only makes sense seasonally then open only seasonally. At its heart this legislation is not about liquor on Sundays — it is about economic freedom.

Perham taxpayers and residents should expect liquor stores to be open for business, offering greater consumer choice, instead they have the opposition from someone who penned a resolution based on rhetoric and not facts. Residents, taxpayers and small business owners in the Perham area deserve better.