By Brian Kaufenberg
Legislation gives municipalities ability to decide sales of off-sale liquor
A renewed effort to end the ban on Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota has a new proponent in the Minnesota House of Representatives. State Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) has introduced a new bill for the 2014 legislative session that would end the statewide ban of Sunday liquor sales, and instead give authority to local governments to set rules for Sunday sales in their individual municipalities.
“While I understand and appreciate some of the concerns raised by opponents of Sunday sales in the past, none of our neighboring states ban off-sale liquor sales on Sunday, and Minnesota is one of only 12 states nationwide with such a law,” Loon said in a statement. “I have worked with both Republicans and Democrats who are ready to make this small but important change to our state statutes and enhance our economic competitiveness.”
Allowing local municipalities to decide hours and rules for these sales may help assuage the concerns of some liquor store owners and other pro-ban lobbyists, who want to hold onto the one day a week they don’t have to worry about sales with competitors and who worry the sales generated on Sunday will not cover operating costs.
The issue of Sunday liquor sales has been debated before in the state legislature. Each year a bill is introduced it has failed to find a majority to pass it into law, including last year’s amendment to a broader liquor bill authored by Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) in the 2013 legislative session. The amendment was struck down in the Minnesota House with a vote of 106-21.
The effort to end the ban has gained traction as of late with the public support from owner of Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub Jamie Robinson and Minnesota Beer Activists founder Andrew Schmitt, who has been working on overturning the ban for years and is collecting signatures for an online petition to the legislature on his website, sundaysalesmn.org.
Whether or not the momentum will carry a bill through the legislature to the Governor’s desk remains to be seen, but recently Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) publicly stated in an exclusive interview with the AP that should a bill ending the ban on Sunday liquor sales reach his desk, he will sign it into law.
“Commerce is well enough established as seven days and nights a week now,” Dayton said. “For us to say it doesn’t apply to this or doesn’t apply to that really doesn’t make much sense. There are an increasing number of Minnesotans for which Sunday isn’t a religious holiday.”