Sunday liquor sales passes Minnesota House

Sunday liquor sales passed the Minnesota House on a floor vote of 85-45. Sunday sales faces a tougher battle in the Minnesota Senate, with the first committee hearing on Wednesday.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a co-author of House Bill HF30, has voted against Sunday liquor sales in the past, but is confident that this is the year for a change.

“This is one of those antiquated laws that people really want to see changed,” Daudt told Fox 9 on Sunday. “We believe we’ll have 72-75 votes. It takes 68 votes to pass the bill so it’s exciting."

Monday afternoon's vote clearly exceeded Daudt's expectations. About 66 percent of DFL lawmakers in the House voted in favor of Sunday sales, and nearly 65 percent of House Republicans supported the bill.

The Prohibition-era issue receives attention year after year, but never has it moved forward like it has in 2017. In fact, this marks the first time the Minnesota House has approved bill legalizing Sunday sales.

Reaction to the vote

Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), chief author of the bill: “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. 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.”

Speaker Daudt: "Passing Sunday Sales out of the House would not have been possible without Rep. Loon's persistence and the groundswell of grassroots support from consumers demanding a change from their legislators. This historic vote brings us one step closer to giving Minnesotans the freedom to buy their favorite beer or wine on any day of the week without government getting in the way." 

Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association: “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."

What's different this year?

Lawmakers in previous years added the bill as an amendment on the House floor. But, this year the bill garnered so much support that, for the first time, it passed out of committee on its own.

'At least have the option'

“It’s time everyone catch up with that industry and at least have the option. Sunday sales isn’t going to force anyone to be open,” said Minnesota beer activist Andrew Schmitt.

As a proponent of Sunday liquor sales, Schmitt does acknowledge concerns from small liquor store owners, but says only half of them refuse to participate should the bill make it to the governor’s desk.

“The ones that it’ll work for, they’ll stay open. The ones that don’t, they’re more than happy to stay closed," Schmitt said. "That’s the way it works around the rest of the country, and they do just fine. We can do it here in Minnesota, too."

Liquor store owners large or small will have the liberty to choose which Sunday hours, if any, are best for them.

“We have taken into account some of their concerns and minimized the number of hours liquor stores could be open on Sunday. We’re allowing them to do from 10-6 p.m., which is one eight-hour shift, instead of having it longer which would be more than one eight-hour shift. So, we’re trying to take into consideration their concern,” Daudt said.

Flipping votes

Daudt is certainly not the only lawmaker who more than once voted “no” on repealing the Sunday liquor sales ban. Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) has historically voted against the measure, but he changed his vote for the first time on Monday afternoon.

“I’ve always opposed it in the past and again, I think there still are some good policy arguments about that, about helping small liquor stores survive and those kinds of things, but at the end of the day I think it’s time to trust the people of Minnesota on this one,” Thissen said.

Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated he’s ready to sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. that means if this bill clears the Senate, Minnesotans could be able to buy alcohol on Sundays as early the July 4 holiday weekend.