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Minnesota Legislature

Sunday liquor sales debate goes another round with the same outcome

A shopper peruses the bottles on offer Thursday at Capital Wine and Spirit on Rice Street in St. Paul. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Each session a host of organizations and cities come before the Legislature asking for dispensation from the state’s liquor laws for sales at a place where traditional liquor sales are not allowed.

And looking to tag onto that bill, you can expect some amendments asking for off-sale liquor activity on Sunday.

This year was no different.

Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) sponsors the local government liquor licensing bill, HF3699. And Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) was looking to tack on an amendment that would take a step toward Sunday off-sales by giving municipalities control over whether they should be allowed.

House Floor debate on HF3699 5/12/16

After a spirited debate, however, her amendment failed 70-56.

Loon began her push for Sunday sales last year, arguing that local governments should decide who can have a liquor license and hours they can be open.

“I think it is time we step forward and allow them to make the decision. Consumers are asking for this. Liquor stores are asking for this,” she said

Hoppe pleaded with members, however, to not support the amendment as the future of the proposed licenses in the bill would be in jeopardy if the controversial provision was attached.

The bill passed the House 126-0, and is now on its way to the Senate sans the Sunday off-sale amendment. Sen. James Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul) is the sponsor.

The bill would grant the following requests for a special liquor license:

  • the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul;
  • Indiafest to be held on the State Capitol grounds Aug. 20;
  • St. Cloud State University for sales at events at the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center;
  • for the City of Janesville-owned Prairie Ridge Golf Course; and
  • to the City of Minneapolis for Cap’s Grille at 5000 Hiawatha Ave.

 

Sunday sales blues

The ban on Sunday off-sales is part of a collection of what’s called the Blue Laws. Nearly as old as the country itself, they ban certain activities on Sunday and were put in place, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls) has been a spirited stalwart of off-sale Sunday liquor sales since 2000. She views the remaining Blue Law prohibitions - vehicles and off-sale liquor – as archaic. She had her own amendment ready to go on the floor, but instead threw her support to Loon.

Rep. Jenifer Loon discusses her amendment that would allow local municipalities to decide if off-sale Sunday liquor sales should be allowed. It failed 70-56. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Kahn prides herself on having the “wettest” voting record, but the “driest” lifestyle. She said that 35 states allow liquor off-sales on Sunday, including those surrounding Minnesota.

“This would be the elimination of one small piece of repressive government. In particular, this is a youth issue. This prohibition of Sunday sales … has no relationship to people’s way of life. I strongly urge support of the Loon amendment,” she said.

But opponents, across party lines, held fast to their arguments that expanding sales to Sunday would likely lead to more alcohol-related incidents and crimes. Others stood up for smaller stores that would have to be open, but would only see their sales spread across seven days rather than six.

“I’ve wrestled with this a lot. … This is really about big box vs. small local main street businesses, and I’m voting for them,” said Rep. Jason Isaacson (DFL-Little Canada).

 

Minnesota’s “dry” history

Minnesota has a reputation for having some of the strictest liquor laws. Apart from last year’s update that allowed restaurants to serve alcohol before 10 a.m., many of the core regulations governing the manufacturing, distribution, retail sale and consumption of alcohol beverages date back to the state’s territorial days in 1858 and 1933, the year prohibition officially came to an end.

Even before prohibition took effect, 63 of the state’s 87 counties were considered “dry” or free from alcohol sales, according to an Anti-saloon League book published in 1920. But at the time, Minnesota also had 37 breweries producing over a million barrels of fermented liquor, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Read more about House Sunday liquor sales legislative initiatives:

Sunday off-sale liquor supporters state their case

Omnibus liquor bill passes House without Sunday sales

Growlers first step toward lifting Sunday liquor sale ban?

Off-sale Sunday liquor sales

100 years ago: Wet or Dry? Liquor fracas shaped 1915 Legislature

 


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