Sunday liquor sales bill signed by Dayton- What local liquor establishments are saying.
Emilee Franklin- Originally published in the Pine County Courier March 9, 2017
On March 7, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Sunday liquor sales bill into law after passing through the Senate and House the week before. The bill, House File 30, will become law after three days. This means some big changes are coming to liquor sales in Minnesota.
Starting July 1, 2017 liquor stores would have the option to sell beer, wine and liquors on Sundays in Minnesota during the time between 11a.m. and 6 p.m. Off-sale liquor sales are currently permitted between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, although some towns have their own stricter ordinances with the time. The bill does not require liquor stores to be open on Sundays, but for the first time in 159 years would allow them the option. Municipal prohibitions on Sunday sales will remain in effect unless local officials reverse them. Although some Off-sale locations would now have the option to be open starting July the legislation still prohibits liquor store deliveries, ordering or marketing on Sundays.
This topic has been brought up both in the House and Senate of Minnesota for years unsuccessfully. The last time this was brought up was during the 2015 legislative season. The current off-sale liquor law in Minnesota has been on the books since the state was created. This law is considered a Blue Law, which is a law designed to enforce religious standards.
Common Blue Laws will prohibit the sale of alcohol, or other retail activity. Many states still have some of these laws still on the books. Another Blue Law that Minnesota has on the books currently is that it is mandatory for car dealerships to be closed for sales and service on Sunday. Some feel this could be changed next.
State Rep. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, voted yes for the bill, while State Senator Tony Lourey, D-Kerrick, was against.
“I look at this as a market freedom issue. Some small stores and municipal liquor stores are opposed to it, but some other local municipals are in favor of it, as are the overwhelming majority of area residents that I’ve heard from on this topic,” Rarick said.
“I’ve always struggled with this vote. I realize many people want the convenience of purchasing alcohol on Sunday. On the other hand, most of the retail outlets in our region are municipal liquor stores. These locally run establishments have convinced me that Sunday sales would simply spread six days’ worth of sales across seven days of being open, reducing their net income. This is lost income for our small cities that will likely have to be replaced with additional property taxes on residents. Ultimately, the provision passed but my vote was to protect the financial wellbeing of these local governments.,” Lourey said.
Finlayson Mayor Xavier Villareal said he welcomed the change in state law.
“In the summer time there are thousands of people moving up in the area,” said Villareal, who said the Finlayson Municipal off-sale would welcome this change, and be open if there was business to support it.
“It’s a good situation for us as we are already staffed and open,” said Tara Dobosenski, owner of Doc’s in Sturgeon lake and the new Docs on 23 in Askov. “I think it would be challenging if you had to open for the limited hours on a Sunday especially if you were a small off sale business, with a small staff.”
“I think it’s about time. I think it’s a good thing,” said Rich Thoennes of Rich’s Bar in Sandstone.
Thoennes plans on being open if the bill is approved. “The building is open anyways and already staffed on Sundays,” he said.
Thoennes does believe the bill would create more revenues locally, and statewide.
Hinckley City Administrator Kyle Morrell said that the city council would be discussing the matter at its next meeting on March 14.