Sunday liquor sales passes Minnesota House committee

Sunday liquor sales have been a lid no Minnesota legislature has been able to open in 82 years.  This year it may have found the bottle opener.

On Tuesday, the House Commerce Committee passed a bill repealing the ban on Sunday sales on a 15-4 vote. It now goes to the general register for debate by the full House.

The bill’s chief author, Rep. Jenifer Loon of Eden Prairie, has pushed for the repeal in every legislative session for the past four years. Each time, her bill has been voted down over concerns from unions and small businesses who’ve argued that opening an extra day would only increase labor expenses without increasing sales.

But this year, momentum appears to be changing.

“This is a change that consumers have been seeking and retailers have been seeking for a number of years in Minnesota,” Loon told fellow lawmakers.

Loon also has a powerful co-sponsor in House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who told Fox 9 last week he believes he has the votes to pass it.

The bill itself is simple. It repeals the word “Sundays” in state statue and, in a nod to labor unions, adds a clause forbidding distributors from delivering alcohol to retailers on Sundays. 

Tamara Kramer, owner of the Vom Fass store in the Mall of America, says changing the law would allow her to open four more stores and hire more employees. 

“Based upon nearly three years of my own sales history, I believe I could see a 10 percent increase in my annual sales which would go a long way to helping me sleep at night,” Kramer said.

But, opposition has already also lined up. Tony Chesak of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association told lawmakers there’s no need to disrupt what already works.

“It is important for you to know that the current system of regulation of alcohol works well in the State of Minnesota,” Chesak said.

And then there are the religious objections.

“So I would urge you to vote no just on moral grounds,” said Rev. Gary Fry. “But secondly, I’d urge you to vote no because alcohol is destructive.”

But, even Governor Dayton acknowledged on Tuesday that Sunday sales has become a populist issue that he would not veto.

“It’s one of those issues where there are vested interests on one side and vested interests on the other side,” Dayton said. “Where is the public interest? I think the public interest is to probably to buy alcohol on Sunday’s like you can buy just any other commodity.”

If passed, the bill would likely go into effect on July 1.