Should liquor stores be open on Sundays?

You can go to a local bar or restaurant on a Sunday afternoon and order a vodka tonic, but forget about buying a bottle of vodka at your local liquor store.

Minnesota prohibits liquor stores from selling their beer, wine and spirits on Sundays and some holidays. Liquor store owners, primarily along Minnesota’s border, have lobbied for Sunday business hours to compete with liquor stores across the border.

The Sun Current asked Bloomington’s legislators, “Would you support a bill that allows Minnesota liquor stores to be open on Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas?”

Responses from four of Bloomington’s five house and senate members are as follows:

Ann Lenczewski, House District 50B (D-Bloomington): Proposals permitting the sale of liquor on Sunday have been made several times over the previous sessions.

While these proposals often have some degree of bipartisan support, they also typically have trouble gaining traction in the legislature. These proposals have been unable to garner enough votes to pass.

These vote margins, which are similar to others in recent years, suggest that any future proposal may have trouble gaining momentum. Both Bloomington residents and Bloomington liquor store owners are split on the issue of Sunday liquor sales.

Whether or not this is the year that there is enough support for the bill remains to be seen. If previous proposals are any indicator, the bill will have to clear a number of hurdles in order to gain the broader support needed to pass.

For my part, you have my assurance that I will give the proposal due consideration if it comes before me.

Paul Rosenthal, House District 49B (D-Edina): Such a bill makes sense in the free market economy and most businesses already choose to be open on Sundays.

Local liquor stores, however, are opposed to this measure and I won’t support something that the affected small business owners are against.  The operating costs for staying open on Sundays and holidays likely outweigh the benefits from an extra day of sales.

Linda Slocum, House District 50A, (D-Richfield): A new bill that would legalize Sunday liquor sales has many Minnesotans buzzing. While proposals to liberalize Minnesota’s liquor laws often are popular, I believe the facts require a sober analysis before we move ahead with any change.

The economic impact of Sunday liquor sales would be minimal. The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates that off-sale retail sales would only increase 0.5 percent if Sunday purchases were allowed.

Many liquor store owners in Bloomington have told me they oppose changing the law. These owners believe there would be little business on a Sunday. Being open an additional day, however, would raise their overhead costs and deny retailers a day off.

The city of Richfield, which owns municipal liquor stores used to fund community parks, also opposes changing the law for the same reasons.

Some believe Minnesota’s Sunday liquor laws are antiquated. Many states have far more questionable statutes. Our southern neighbor, Iowa, forbids patrons from running a tab, while Massachusetts and Utah even outlaw “happy hour” specials.

In the past I have voted against legalizing Sunday liquor sales because of opposition from retailers and the limited revenue it raises for Minnesota. Unless these conditions change, I probably will oppose efforts this year as well.

Melissa Halvorson Wiklund, Senate District 50 (D-Bloomington): I’ve heard from a number of different groups regarding a proposal to allow liquor sales on Sundays.

From a consumer’s perspective, I can understand the reasons for supporting it: losing business to Wisconsin, and convenience.

But I have also heard from the city of Richfield, certain labor groups and some liquor store owners, among others, who have various reasons for opposing it, mostly centered on concerns about the economic and public safety impact.

This is an issue that I will have to give some thoughtful study before I make a decision.  I am eager to hear from Richfield and Bloomington residents on this issue.

Melisa Franzen, Senate District 49 (D-Edina), did not respond.

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