Fight over Sunday liquor sales continues

ST. PAUL -- Claiming new momentum for a cause that's been a perennial loser at the Capitol, opponents of Minnesota's law banning Sunday liquor-store sales said Thursday that they'll push for a repeal this session.

ST. PAUL -- Claiming new momentum for a cause that’s been a perennial loser at the Capitol, opponents of Minnesota’s law banning Sunday liquor-store sales said Thursday that they’ll push for a repeal this session.

  “Coming off an election cycle where this was an issue that people talked about and candidates campaigned on and candidates were surveyed on, I really feel that 2015 is the year to get this done in the Minnesota Legislature. We have a governor who has said he will sign the bill. We have a speaker of the House who is supportive, so we’ve made significant forward progress,” said Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth,  who’s been pushing for years to have Minnesota join the 38 other states that allow Sunday sales.

“The time has come for this law to be changed and be brought into the 21st century,” said state Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, who is carrying the repeal bill in the House.

The repeal effort has been beaten back at the Capitol in recent years as social conservatives have objected on moral grounds and a liquor-store trade group has argued that being open Sundays would add to store owners’ costs without significantly increasing sales.

An amendment on the Senate floor in the spring to strike the Sunday sales ban from state law failed 42-22. The year before, an effort in the House to amend the liquor bill to allow Sunday sales failed 106-21.


Repeal advocates may have Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt on their side this year, but the third member of state government’s ruling triumvirate - Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk - does not want to repeal the Sunday sales ban, though he has said he expects there will be a vote on it.

And Rep. Greg Davids, a Republican from Preston who chairs the House Taxes Committee, calls the chances of a repeal passing the House “slim to none.

“The majority of the liquor store owners want to leave it the way it is,” Davids said. “You know, even the good Lord rested on the seventh day.”

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which opposes the repeal, issued a statement Thursday saying in part: “The many small business owners and members of the MLBA look forward to talking with newly elected and returning legislators and sharing our stories. In the past, many Senators and Representatives have understood the importance of our current smart and balanced alcohol policy in the state. We hope to keep those legislators on the side of small business.”

But Reinert and Loon brought four liquor store owners with them to Thursday’s news conference who want to see the ban go away.

“My customers have said loud and clear that they want this,” said David Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Liquor in Stillwater. “We sell a legal product in a legal and responsible way, and I should have the choice to be able to do that on Sundays without government interference.”

The issue is particularly acute for stores like Hansen’s in border communities where customers can easily drive to Wisconsin.

“There is no coincidence that every bridge from Minnesota to Wisconsin has a liquor store at the bottom of it,” Reinert said.


Tamra Kramer, owner of Vom Fass, a gourmet food and wine store in the Mall of America, said she calculated that being able to sell liquor on Sundays could mean between $50,000 and $100,000 in additional revenue for her per year.

“To my little business, $100,000 is a lot of money, and it could mean the difference between success and failure for me,” she said.

In the past, Reinert and Loon have advanced options in addition to outright repeal to give their colleagues the chance to chip away at the ban instead of overturning it.

In the spring, a bill that would have allowed small breweries to sell “growlers” on Sundays was advancing through the process until opposition from the Teamsters union scuttled it.

Teamsters oppose Sunday sales because they say it could require deliveries on Sunday, which would reopen collective bargaining agreements.

Loon offered to write into the bill an exemption for weekend deliveries. In response, the Teamsters said they were open to at least discussing the matter.

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