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Minnesota Senate Votes in Favor of Sunday Liquor Sales

February 27, 2017 07:36 PM

In a potentially historic move, the Minnesota Senate voted 38 to 28 Monday to allow Sunday liquor sales beginning July 1.

The House passed a similar, but slightly different bill, last week. If the differences can be worked out, the bill could go to the Gov. Mark Dayton later this week and he has vowed not to veto it.

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"I think the government needs to stay out of private businesses and this gives business local control," said Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville. "So I urge a yes vote on Sunday liquor."

Hall's sentiments were echoed by Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska. 

"This isn't a difficult vote for me at all," he said during debate on the Senate floor. "I'd say, 'government get out of the way whenever you can'."

But this was not a partisan issue. Republican Senator Bill Ingebrigsten, R-Alexandria, said lifting the Sunday liquor store sales ban risks altering Minnesota's culture.

"This just goes against the family, the Sunday family events," he said.

RELATED: House Approves Sunday Liquor Sales

Some lawmakers argued that allowing Sunday liquor sales will help "big box" liquor retailers and hurt family-owned liquor stores and those in small towns.

"The big boxes and the regional centers are changing our little rural communities," said Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, a long-time Sunday-sales opponent. "They will never be the same again."

However, Senate bill author Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, pointed out the bill allows cities to opt out of Sunday liquor sales and doesn't force any store to open on Sundays.

Opponents say most liquor stores couldn't take that gamble.

"If they don't open on Sundays the people that normally shop there will find a big box store to go to, and they may never go back to that small liquor store again," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.

Municipal liquor stores in the metro area are also worried. Profits at the Edina Liquor stores dropped from $1.5 million in 2012 to about $650,000 in 2015. Those stores continue to struggle with competition from big liquor chains like Total Wine.

"I've always said if it's good for customers it's bad for business," Edina City Manager Scott Neal told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Monday. "I think we'll be hard-pressed for this to be a profit-making venture for our city."

Even though he estimates it will cost $250,000 for their stores to open 52 Sundays each year, they won't have much choice.

"We have to compete," Neals said. "Our competitors are going to be open on Sundays, we're going to be open, too."

The major difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill centers on Sunday hours. The Senate bill authorizes sales from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the House version says 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Once that difference is ironed out, a bill will go to Dayton's desk, where he will either sign it or allow it to pass into law without his signature.

KSTP

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