New Ad Released as Minn. Lawmakers, Liquor Stores Battle over Sunday Sales

Updated: 03/10/2014 7:30 AM
Created: 03/09/2014 9:16 PM
By: Stephen Tellier

After almost annual attempts to overturn the state's ban on Sunday liquor sales, it seems momentum is building for a change.

On Thursday, lawmakers unveiled several bills, with options including allowing Sunday sales outright, allowing tap rooms to sell beer on Sundays, putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November, or letting individual cities and counties decide the issue for themselves.

Just last year, the House voted overwhelmingly against allowing Sunday alcohol sales. But some are hoping this is the year the tide turns on this issue.

Six days a week, The Four Firkins Beer Store in Saint Louis Park is a bustling bastion of adult beverages.

But Sundays are different.

"It's ridiculous. We're selling a legal product. There's no reason we can't sell this on a Sunday. This is 2014," said Jason Alvey, owner of The Four Firkins Beer Store.

Alvey said on Sundays, he typically pays bills, responds to emails, and deals with the occasional awkward interruption.

"People come here from out of state -- we're a destination store. So they knock on the door, and I'll go and answer the door and explain to them, 'I'm sorry. This is Minnesota. I know it's embarrassing, but I'm not allowed to sell you beer today,'" Alvey said.

Alvey estimated Sunday sales would boost his business by at least two percent per year. That's $40,000, or enough to hire another employee.

But he said the money is secondary.

"It's a principle thing. I want to be able to serve my customers. I'm a retailer. Retail 101 is, 'Listen to your customers,'" Alvey said.

A group called Legalize Sunday Sales of Alcohol in Minnesota has put together a new commercial, poking fun at the law. It's due to start airing on TV soon.

But for dozens of liquor stores that have lined up against Sunday sales, this is no laughing matter. Industry groups like the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association and the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association argue Sunday sales would simply spread six days of sales across seven days, increase costs by forcing stores to open to stay competitive, eventually lead to other changes like allowing grocery stores to sell stronger beer and wine, and even putting public safety at risk.

Alvey said the lobbying groups are wrong.

"At what point are the legislators going to start listening to the people and the small businesses, not the liquor lobby?" Alvey asked.

The slew of Sunday sales bills introduced on Thursday were trumpeted by Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, and Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, so there is some bipartisan agreement on this issue.

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