For the first time since the decades-old ban went into effect, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow Sunday liquor sales in the state.
The bill, which was approved by a vote of 85–45, would allow liquor stores to be open between 10am–6pm and prohibit the delivery of alcohol to off-sale retailers on Sundays, which had been a sticking point in past years for the union that represents delivery drivers. According to the bill’s chief author in the House, Rep. Jenifer Loon, (R-Eden Prairie), this was the first time Sunday sales was up for a vote as its own standalone bill, versus being attached to larger pieces of legislation.
Attention now shifts to the Senate, where the debate is shaping up to be a close one. The Senate version of the bill, authored by Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), is scheduled for a hearing at 10:30am on Wednesday, Feb. 22 in front of the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy. Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) was quoted by the Associated Press today as saying that each year it seems like there’s increasing support for lifting the ban, and that the House vote only increases the pressure to do so.
Governor Mark Dayton has repeatedly expressed his support for Sunday sales and is expected to sign the bill into law if it makes it to his desk. The change would take effect on July 1, 2017.
Following the vote, Rep. Loon reiterated her hope that this is the year the Sunday sales ban is overturned.
“Having championed legislation to repeal the Sunday sales ban for the past four years, I have worked hard to bring momentum to this issue and grow support among legislators,” Rep. Loon said in a press release. “Today’s vote reflects that work, passing bipartisan legislation in the House that is supported by a majority of Minnesota citizens who want to see our state’s antiquated alcohol laws move into the twenty-first century. Repealing the Sunday sales ban will give consumers and businesses the convenience and choice they deserve, and I hope we can get it signed into law this year.”
Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents its member liquor retailers and is opposed to Sunday sales, expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the vote but said the MLBA is not deterred in its efforts.
“Today’s vote is one step in a long legislative process. Our organization will continue to educate legislators and the public that authorizing Sunday sales will raise costs for small, family-owned businesses and consumers. This effort toward deregulation of the liquor industry is a step in the wrong direction as it will lead to reduced choices for consumers and the un-leveling of the playing field in favor of big box retailers,” Chesak said in a press release.
Minnesota is currently one of 12 states that do not allow Sunday liquor sales.