Sunday liquor sales bill introduced, again

Bills aiming to repeal Sunday liquor laws have surfaced several times in the past.

Alma Pronove

A bipartisan bill that would lift the longstanding ban on Sunday liquor sales was introduced this week in the Minnesota Senate.

Bills allowing Sunday liquor sales have been introduced many times in the past but have never gotten far in the Legislature.

The authors, Sens. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, and Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, proposed the same bill in 2011, but it never made it through committee.

“This [bill] is really, at this point, past its time,” Reinert said. “This change should have already been made. That’s not the reality of the 21st century. People work on Sundays.”

Reinert said he was unsure how far his bill would get this year.

Some students and local businesses support the bill while others are opposed.

Dinkytown Wine and Spirits owner Irv Hershkovitz  said he would like to see the bill pass.

“We are all for it,” he said. “When my customers run out of beer or vodka [on Sundays], they get in a car and drive to Hudson, [Wis.].”

Reinert, who’s from Duluth, shares Hershkovitz’s concerns.

“It’s 2013, and Minnesota is only one of 12 states that still has this kind of ban,” Reinert said. “We literally see the revenue go over the bridge and into Wisconsin.”

Every state and Canadian province that borders Minnesota permits Sunday liquor sales.

“It’s a loss of business, and it’s an old, old law,” Hershkovitz said. “Everything is open on Sundays.”

Zipps Liquors owner Jennifer Schoenzeit doesn’t feel the same way.

“We are opposed to Sunday sales,” she said. “This is going to change shopping habits, not drinking habits.”

Schoenzeit is concerned about the financial cost of staying open on Sundays.

“This means I’d have to stay open seven days a week instead of six. It raises the cost of doing business, and I only have 20 employees.”

Some students agree.

“I work at a liquor store, so I would be totally against that,” marketing sophomore Adrienne Keiser said. “I work late Friday and Saturday, and I go to school, so Sunday is my one day off.”

Schoenzeit thinks the bill could affect business outside liquor stores, too.

“It would hurt bars financially” she said.

Currently, restaurants, bowling centers and hotels may serve alcohol on Sundays if they have a Sunday permit.

Todd DuPont, a co-owner of the Big 10 Restaurant and Bar, said he doesn’t think the bill would affect business at all.

“Sunday is a slow day, anyway,” he said. “People are preparing for Monday or at home relaxing. We don’t have a whole lot of alcohol sales on Sundays.”

Some students say they’d like to see local liquor stores open Sundays.

“I would be in favor of that,” biology junior Margaret Shevik said. “I don’t really see the need, though. It’s never been a hindrance for me.”

Psychology senior Julie Richter, who’s from Wisconsin, said she’d also support the measure.

“It just makes sense,” Richter said.

The Sunday ban has been in place since 1985, yet the senators are confident lifting the ban is a cause worth pursuing.

“This will benefit constituents since they won’t have to drive across the border to buy their liquor anymore, and this will benefit small-business owners who run liquor stores by bringing in more sales,” co-author Miller said.

Reinert noted the economic benefit to the state.

“In a time where we’re struggling to find money in the budget, I don’t know why we would just lose out on these tax revenues,” Reinert said.

He also acknowledged the religious affiliation with Sundays.

“I am a person who believes the church and state should be separate,” he said. “Nothing in the bill requires liquor stores to be open, so if a store owner of faith wants to stay closed on Sundays, they can do just that.”

The bill would also give liquor stores the option to open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

After its introduction in the Senate, the bill was referred to the Commerce Committee.

While Reinert was doubtful it would get a hearing, Miller was slightly more optimistic.

“Last year, we just didn’t have the votes,” Miller said. “Maybe all this media attention will spark some more interest.”