Legislature to consider Sunday booze bill

This bill is the latest in a series of unsuccessful attempts.

Kyle Potter

A bill introduced in the state Legislature on Wednesday would allow Minnesota liquor stores to stay open seven days a week, meaning the 40-minute drive from Minneapolis to Hudson, Wis. could be replaced by a quick trip to the nearest liquor store.
Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, authored the bill that seeks to repeal MinnesotaâÄôs long-standing ban of liquor sales on Sundays.
Minnesota is one of 14 states with such a ban. Every state that borders Minnesota allows liquor stores to stay open on Sundays.
âÄúI just think itâÄôs time. This is a remnant of the blue laws from a different time and a different place,âÄù Reinert said, noting the law has been in place since the end of the Prohibition era in the 1930s.
The bill would also allow liquor stores to stay open Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.
Reinert said the money his bill would bring in should help persuade other legislators, even though itâÄôs just âÄúa drop in the bucketâÄù that is the stateâÄôs $6.2 billion deficit.
The change could generate up to $76.5 million in retail sales and $10.6 million in tax revenue for Minnesota, according to analysis by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
âÄúSunday alcohol sales are an innovative way to generate much-needed revenue without raising taxes,âÄù DISCUS spokesman Ben Jenkins said.
MinnesotaâÄôs laws on the sale of liquor are among the most restrictive in the country, Jenkins said. Supermarkets and convenience stores in the state can currently sell âÄúlow-point beerâÄù âÄî beer with 3.2 percent alcohol âÄî on Sundays. Only Georgia, Indiana and Connecticut ban the sale of any alcoholic beverages outright on Sundays.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she will introduce an accompanying bill in the House of Representatives early next week.
Kahn has led attempts to change the law in the House before, most recently in 2009, when her bill was tacked on to a larger alcohol omnibus bill before receiving just a handful of votes in favor. Such bills have floated around the Legislature for years but have never neared success.
ItâÄôs unclear if this year is ripe for a renewed effort, Kahn said. Reinert said the influx of new faces to the Legislature will help as they revisit an old, oft-visited topic.   
He and one of the billâÄôs three co-authors sit on the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee, the committee to which the bill has been assigned. Reinert is hopeful this bill will get a hearing âÄî something that didnâÄôt happen last year when he introduced it in the House.
Frank Ball, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, has opposed the attempts made to change the law by lobbying against proposed bills in the Legislature. MLBA is the stateâÄôs largest liquor trade group.
âÄú[Staying closed on Sundays] might be a little bit outdated, but it still fits real good into our industry,âÄù Ball said. âÄúWe like to spend time with our families on Sundays.âÄù
Some liquor stores would no doubt choose to stay open week-round, which would force neighboring stores to do the same in order to stay competitive, Ball said.
He also expressed concern that it wouldnâÄôt bring in more revenue but instead spread it over a longer work week.
Fourteen states have repealed their laws that ban alcohol sales on Sundays since 2002, according to DISCUS. Jenkins isnâÄôt sure why Minnesota hasnâÄôt joined that list, despite politiciansâÄô many efforts.
âÄúIt shouldnâÄôt be a big deal,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs a win for the state, for consumers and small business owners that want to open on Sundays.âÄù