By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Grabbing booze on a Sunday at a liquor store is a luxury Minnesotans have happily embraced for more than two years.

But it’s different feel for liquor store owners like Dan Campo. He owns South Lyndale Liquors.

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“We haven’t gotten enough sales to justify it, but it’s a consumer access thing, so we’re open,” Campo said.

His store and several others have weathered the change, but Campo’s now concerned about another potential shift to the state’s alcohol laws regarding the sale of 3.2% beer.

“As liquor store owners we are definitely against it,” Campo said.

Minnesota grocery stores and gas stations can only sell beer with an alcohol content of 3.2%, also known as “3-2” and “near beer.”

State Sen. Karin Housley said the law is outdated and hurting those businesses since Minnesota is now the only state still selling it.

“The manufacturers are like, ‘You know what, it’s too expensive for us to even make it. We’re not gonna make it just for Minnesota.’ So they’re now pulling out of the 3.2 beer business. So the grocery stores and the gas stations don’t even have a product anymore,” Housley said.

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She added that because of Sunday liquor sales, those same gas stations and grocery stores have lost customers.

Sen. Housley plans to introduce a bill in the next session making it so the same wines and strong beers on Campo’s shelves can be found in grocery store aisles and gas station coolers.

“Thirty-nine other state have passed this. They do sell beer and wine in their grocery stores and they’re able to coexist along with the liquor stores in those states,” she said. “They have to continue to compete in the free market which is what we’re all about. We want free market competition for our stores and businesses.”

Campo fears some smaller liquor stores will struggle to exist if the law changes, since customers might opt to buy booze at a big box store like Walmart instead of mom and pop shops.

He said grocery stores can survive with or without selling booze since people will always need groceries. For liquor stores, selling alcohol is all they’ve got.

“For almost 100 years, people like myself and other small business owners have invested in small business as a way of life with the ability and training to be able to sell these kind of products,” he said. “By changing a law like this, it puts all of us who put our life savings, our families, everything that we have into these businesses and it just completely says, ‘Now we’ve created access and it’s going to be at your detriment.’”

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Housley feels her bill has bipartisan support. The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association is strongly opposed to changing the law.

Jeff Wagner