ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota House Monday took a major step toward legalizing Sunday liquor sales.
The House overwhelmingly approved a bill allowing Minnesota liquor stores to open on Sundays for the first time.
But not everyone is happy about it.
Minnesota lawmakers repealed Prohibition in 1933, the same year they banned Sunday liquor store sales.
Eighty-four years later, supporters say lifting the liquor ban is long overdue — consumer habits have changed and Sunday is now the second busiest shopping day of the week.
“They do their shopping on Sundays. Maybe they’re running the kids around for sports on Saturdays and other things. That’s when people are doing their shopping and it’s important for our economy to be able to meet that demand,” Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said.
Minnesota’s one of only 12 states in the country to ban liquor stores from opening on Sunday — a throwback to Sunday “blue laws” restricting business on a day of Christian worship.
Despite the overwhelming 85-45 vote to allow Sunday liquor sales, many still oppose it.
Small “mom and pop” liquor stores fear they will be forced out of business, gobbled up by the new “big box” liquor stores that critics say are changing the landscape of small town Minnesota.
“There are no more local department stores. There are no more local pharmacies, because one sector at a time has been gobbled up by the big box stores,” Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, said. “Now they are going after small liquor stores.”
The excitement shared at O’Garas Pub in St. Paul on a Monday flowed from the possibility buying the beer to fill glasses on a Sunday. House Speaker Kurt Daudt hosted a celebration at the restaurant after the bill’s passing. Also in the room was Andrew Schmitt, the Director of Minnesota Beer Activists.
“We’re celebrating a victory,” Schmitt said. “It’s not ‘the’ victory, but hopefully at some point we can raise a glass to the Senate as well and Minnesota can all raise a beer together on a Sunday.”
At Stinson Wine Beer and Spirits in Northeast Minneapolis, the hope of selling alcohol seven days a week has been growing for years.
“I think it comes hand in hand with just some of the beer tourism we’re trying to promote,” said co-owner Daniel Mays.
But not all liquor store owners agree with him. Some worry about having to pay their employees for another day’s work without enough sales to make it worthwhile.
“The argument that your labor costs would go up, well you’re hoping to increase sales,” said Mays. “And I think one of the things we say here is that we’re always looking for a chance to interact with our customers.”
The ban has often been called an old law, one that hasn’t aged well like a fine wine. But change is brewing and the State Senate’s vote could be the final ingredient.
“There’s two House districts in every Senate district so I think you have to look at where the House votes were. And if you had two House members voting for it I think that’s likely the senator will probably follow suit,” said House Speaker Daudt.
If the bill gets enough votes in the Senate to make it to the governor — and that’s a big if after 84 years — Gov. Mark Dayton says he will sign it.
If it does pass, it would go into effect July 1. Stores would be allowed to open on Sundays between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.