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End the prohibition on Sunday liquor sales

The law against Sunday sales of wine, beer and spirits is a relic of the past and does not meet today’s consumer demand.

Consumers deserve the convenience of shopping for wine, beer and spirits in retail stores on Sundays. 

Leslee Miller

An overwhelming number of consumers in Minnesota support Sunday sales and thousands of them are contacting their legislators to say so. With even more consumer pressure, we can get Sunday sales passed.

A floor vote in the Minnesota Legislature to finally repeal the Sunday sales ban is expected within the next couple of weeks. I encourage everyone who supports Sunday sales to let their state legislators know today.

A relic of the past

The law against Sunday sales of wine, beer and spirits is a relic of the past and does not meet today’s consumer demand. The law also certainly does not reflect the public’s wishes.

Public opinion favors Sunday sales, especially among Minnesotans who purchase and consume wine, beer and spirits.

Many consumers are constantly juggling busy schedules, including family activities and careers, and prefer Sundays as their day to shop. It’s no surprise that Sundays have become one of the busiest and most popular shopping days of the week.

Consumers want the convenience of shopping for wine, beer and spirits in stores on Sundays as they do for most other items.

After decades of being shut out from shopping on Sundays, Minnesotans are speaking out and demanding change.

Out of step with bordering states

The law prohibiting Sunday sales also puts businesses at a competitive disadvantage since all our bordering states – Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas – allow consumers to shop on Sundays. In fact, Minnesota remains one of only 12 states that still restrict Sunday sales in stores.

Repealing the ban on Sunday sales does not force stores to open that day. Owners would have the option to do so. It’s their choice to make and not up to the government to decide for them.

Thanks to Minnesotans everywhere who contact their state legislators, we may soon see Sunday sales approved and an end to the ridiculously outdated and anti-consumer prohibition on Sunday sales.

Leslee Miller is a certified sommelier and spokesperson for the MN Consumers First Alliance.

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Comments (40)

Just Curious

How much it funding does the MN Consumers First Alliance get from businesses or industry funded groups? Because it would be a stretch to call it a consumer group if it were primarily industry funded.

Funding

Probably a lot less than the anti-Sunday sales movement, which is driven by liquor stores. At least this group actually benefits consumers.

The MN Beer Activists are the

The MN Beer Activists are the folks behind repealing the prohibition on liquor stores being open on Sunday if they desire. We're a volunteer consumer group not funded by industry or other interests. We pay for the campaign from our pockets and fundraising events. Learn more at www.sundaysales.org and www.mnbeeractivists.com

That 'alliance' was formed by

That 'alliance' was formed by the one liquor store chain, not many.

Prohibition does not work

End the prohibition of Sunday liquor sales. I say that as a life-long teetotaler with no desire to purchase wine, beer, or any other alcoholic beverage, no matter what day it might be.

We've demonstrated, more than once, that prohibition does not work. That includes not just the substance du jour, but the place and the date. Efforts to prohibit liquor sales were an abject and total failure when tried in the 1920s, leading to the flowering, if you will, of organized crime. The equally pitiful "War on Drugs" of recent decades has focused on different substances, but has had similar (total lack of) success, and led to a further strengthening of organized crime in the U.S.

There's a term for doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. It's not a compliment.

A sommelier is a connoisseur of a widely-consumed beverage containing a dangerous and frequently-addictive drug called alcohol, which kills thousands of people every year. Ms. Miller obviously has an economic interest in seeing her particular drug of choice marketed more widely, but that doesn't negate the fact that teetotalers like me are outliers in the society, and, while I note that her justification for Sunday sales is notably lacking in statistics and specifics, I'm nonetheless pretty sure that her conclusions, self-serving though they might be, are likely correct.

Banning Sunday sales is not just a holdover from the 19th century, it's a holdover from the 17th century and our Puritan predecessors. We should stop living in the shadows of those Puritans. As a society, we still don't address the cause of addiction to alcohol on any sort of widespread and systematic basis, and certainly not with the same effectiveness of the effort to get people to stop smoking. We also persist in treating addiction to some other non-alcoholic substances as criminal, while addiction to alcohol is often described in popular media, and treated by law enforcement, as a disease. I tend to favor the latter, but that's beside the point of Ms. Miller's piece. Those who don't want Sunday sales are free to keep their stores closed, or, if they're customers, to limit their purchases to Monday through Saturday. There won't be a law *requiring* Sunday sales of liquor, only a law *permitting* such sales.

Mr. Schoch's Letter

I shall not further elucidate upon our nation's pathetic War on Drugs or imbecilic evangelical prohibition of any consumable substance. Instead I encourage one to re-read Mr. Schoch's commentary for it is anchored by logic and reason as well as finely composed in a manner exceeding my writing ability. Thank you Ray.

Put down the booze

for one day a week at least. Try it. You'll feel better in the morning.

Sunday

Sunday sales has little to do with drinking on Sunday - which you can do at any bar - and everything to do with buying alcohol when its convenient.

Freedom

Hey Dennis, I thought you were a big believer in freedom. Are you supporting the government dictating what days these purchases can and cannot be made?

That seems very out of character for you.

Shouldn't people have the freedom to buy (and retailers have the freedom to sell) on whatever days of the week they like, regardless of which days they choose to consume it and without government telling them they cannot?

My appeal was to the individual

No laws need to be involved one way or another.

I have

I don't drink often, but I have had alcohol on Sunday. I usually skip Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, sometimes Thursday, occasionally Friday or Saturday. I've never felt bad on Monday because of alcohol. So, I can say that I have both done what you suggest and don't feel the need to pick Sunday to do it. Personally, I think we should pick Wednesdays for skipping the booze. Maybe Tuesday. Maybe we should let businesses decide which day I can't buy alcohol at their store. Better yet, let me decide which days I don't buy alcohol.

Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

Most liquor stores outside of a few chains and city run stores in Minnesota are basically small business, so therefore Sunday sales would be a huge problem for those stores. In addition, should Sunday sales go through, it would open the door for wine in grocery stores, another negative to a small business. To compare a liquor store to any other retail business does not work. Stores who sell liquor have set hours of operation, products they are allowed by state regulations to carry, and of course individual who may legally purchase alcohol. That is basically the negative side of Sunday sales.

From the positive side of the argument, it is an antiquated law put in when prohibition ended by a conservative republican run MN Legislature who yielded to the religious faction. By the way, the
republicans ran the legislature until the 70's following the Nixon scandal. Now it appears to be the rural legislators and the MLBA who are killing the opportunity for Sunday sales, although am not specific about that. I also live seasonally in a state with ope Sunday liquor, grocery stores who carry liquor, drug store chains with liquor and yet a chain such as Total Wine came into our area and has done very well. And there are even small stores who are successful.

Bottom line. Sunday sales will come, but who knows when.

Sales

My understanding is the proposal is to allow Sunday sales in stores that already sell liquor, not expand it to additional outlets. That issue may very well get proposed at some point, but it's not part of the current package.

Many grocery stores already get around that restriction already by simply registering an adjacent address as the liquor store. They're still in the same building, but have their own entrance. MGM Liquors has exploited this quite a bit by building stores right next to grocery stores.

Another item to consider: 38 states already allow Sunday sales. Have their independent stores all gone out of business?

Last but not least, this would -allow-, but not force, businesses to be open. They can open their doors on Sunday only if they so choose. Now if they're concerned about increasing their staffing costs, they can simply choose the day of the week with the least sales and close on that day instead.

Everybody wins. And for the stores in towns that border neighboring states, they win big as those sales come home to Minnesota.

One last small item to consider. Even if some grocery stores do sell booze in-store at some point, many people will still buy from traditional stores because their selection is better. Grocery stores aren't going to carry a wide selection of brands--just a few popular bottles. How many craft beers do you think will be on the shelves? It would take up too much space to have more than a token sampling.

Sundays

My feeling has always been that if someone can't figure out a way to get though Sunday without buying liquor, that probably isn't that person's biggest problem.

Responsible drinkers

Responsible drinkers still deserve a choice. Why should the state of MN choose your shopping days? What if Sunday isn't your Sabbath, or your sports team unexpectedly wins on Sat, or you get a last minute invite to a birthday party, etc. There are many scenarios that come up where MN stores deserve the sale instead of forcing consumers to 'do a Wisconsin run.'

Responsible drinkers still

Responsible drinkers still deserve a choice.

Why is that? What special merit do they possess that makes them deserving of a choice. And does it follow that irresponsible drinkers don't deserve a choice? How do we make a distinction between the two groups?

Why should the state of MN choose your shopping days?

Because voters have chosen people to make this decision. Don't the folks who put in the effort to go to the polling place deserve to have their decisions implemented?

" What if Sunday isn't your Sabbath, or your sports team unexpectedly wins on Sat, or you get a last minute invite to a birthday party, etc.."

In my many years, I have found that Sunday follows Saturday in a way that is very expected. That feature of the calendar has never been a source of surprise, at least not so far. Just a little bit less predictably, I have a Twins schedule which doesn't extend as far as into the future as regular calendars, but in terms expectations, I find quite satisfactory for my needs. In terms of winning or losing, that can be hard to predict, but in the vast majority of cases, the Twins do one or the other.

"There are many scenarios that come up where MN stores deserve the sale instead of forcing consumers to 'do a Wisconsin run.'

It's my understanding the reason we ban sales on Sunday is because that policy has a large degree of support from liquor store owners who like having the choice to go to church on Sundays, and then take in a Twins game later.

Choice

Liquor store owners would still have the choice to be closed on Sundays, they just wouldn't be required to be closed on Sundays.

Would it be a competitive disadvantage to be closed on Sundays? Maybe. Some companies (Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby) seem to make it work in highly competitive industries.

Liquor store owners would

Liquor store owners would still have the choice to be closed on Sundays, they just wouldn't be required to be closed on Sundays.

Their assumption, right or wrong, is that business pressure would force them to open. That's not a fight in which I have a dog really, but I am willing to take their word for it. I like my Sundays off too.

"Would it be a competitive disadvantage to be closed on Sundays? Maybe. Some companies (Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby) seem to make it work in highly competitive industries."

Every business is different. Fast food isn't something you can plan to buy for the weekend.

Why?

"Why is that? What special merit do they possess that makes them deserving of a choice."

Let's look at it another way: Why do they NOT deserve a choice? Consumers of virtually every other product have the choice to buy on any day of the week the can find a seller open for business What is it about liquor that justifies limiting their choice?

"It's my understanding the reason we ban sales on Sunday is because that policy has a large degree of support from liquor store owners who like having the choice to go to church on Sundays, and then take in a Twins game later." I don't think that was the original reason for the ban. Even so, why should we enshrine the personal preferences of liquor store owners in our state laws? If they want to close on Sunday to go to church and then go to a baseball game, they should be free to do so, but don't make their supposed preference into law (I suspect most owners would just find an employee to cover Sunday anyway).

Not to mention . . .

why should someone's desire to go to CHURCH on a certain day be enshrined into law?

Voters, the calendar and what owners want

"Because voters have chosen people to make this decision. Don't the folks who put in the effort to go to the polling place deserve to have their decisions implemented?"

Other voters are making themselves heard too. Surely you're not suggesting that once a law always a law?

"In my many years, I have found that Sunday follows Saturday in a way that is very expected."

Nothing unexpected ever happens. Oh wait, it does. All the time.

Why do just liquor store owners and car dealers get a day off enshrined in law? Why not bring the blue laws back and give everyone a day off?

Other voters are making

Other voters are making themselves heard too. Surely you're not suggesting that once a law always a law?

By no means. There is nothing wrong for asking that laws be changed.

"Nothing unexpected ever happens. Oh wait, it does. All the time."

Some things do change, some do not. Laws prohibiting liquor sales on Sunday haven't.

"Why do just liquor store owners and car dealers get a day off enshrined in law?"

Because they have communicated their message to legislators more effectively than those who want to enshrine Sunday sales into law.

" Why not bring the blue laws back and give everyone a day off?"

You are perfectly free to make that argument before the legislature if you want. As noted earlier, there is nothing wrong with asking for changes in the law.

"What special merit do they

"What special merit do they possess that makes them deserving of a choice."

No special merit, just the opportunity to be treated like customers of almost every other retail sector.

Auto sales is the only other retail sector I can think of off the top of my that is singled out for special treatment.

Toss it out altogether

I lived in California for about 40 years, so it was a bit of a shock when I moved back to Minnesota and found that liquor can't be sold on Sunday, or after 10 PM, or except in certain stores ... wait, what year IS this? In California, beer, wine and liquor can be bought in any supermarket, every day, except between the hours of 2AM and 6AM (when the bars are closed) and nobody seems to have a problem with it -- according to the CDC, at any rate, California has about half the rate of alcohol and binge-drinking that Minnesota does. Maybe they're on to something.

A suggestion

Liquor stores must be closed one day of the week. Each store gets to choose which day that is.

I doubt many would choose Sunday.

Another Suggestion

Let all store owners--liquor or non-liquor-- decide for themselves if they want to close on a particular day.

Yup

Car dealers, for example.

Funny Thing About That

I've heard it's the car salespeople--not the dealers, necessarily--who are opposed to lifting the ban on Sunday car sales. They work on commission, so they are afraid of losing sales and income if they take a day off when the dealership is open. If the salespeople were paid a salary (I think Saturn used to do this), it wouldn't be a problem, but the "commission only" model is so important that it has to be specially protected by state law.

Commissions

I think many of the dealerships have changed. The sales guy at Morries who sold me my truck said their sales associates were not commissioned.

Let's make this really simple

There is no compelling reason for there to be laws on this. You wanna sell on Sunday, open your store on Sunday. You don't? Then don't.
If you want to buy, and no one wants to open on Sunday, then drive to WI, or open your own store.
If you wanna go to church on Sunday, that is a good thing. It has ZERO to do with what the owner of a business, or a customer of a business does or does not do.
I suspect that most of the people reading MinnPost think Libertarians are crazy, but really, it is a political approach that does tend to remove a lot of friction-points in our society (if people could just bring themselves too not waste energy worrying about what others are doing).

Compelling reasons

There is no compelling reason for there to be laws on this.

It may not be compelling, but one reason is that liquor store owners like the day off, and don't what to suffer competitively for it. The reason, and it is compelling for laws and regulation in the liquor business is that it presents substantial public health issues. The libertarian issue for me, is the liberty to drive on highways on which I share the road with as few drunk drivers as possible.

I don't think libertarians are crazy, but I do think that in pursuit of their own view of their personal rights, they lack an appreciation of how the exercise of their rights, limits the freedom of others.

Sunday sales

I think that you will find that the heaviest drinkers among us are well aware of the lack of purchasing options on Sunday. These people will buy extra on Saturday to avoid running out during the day on Sunday. I find that this law inconveniences infrequent drinkers most of all; those whose every waking moment doesn't revolve around alcohol and might just want a bottle of wine with Sunday dinner.

It's hard to say who is hurt

It's hard to say who is hurt most. But the fact is, buying liquor is amazingly convenient. I live a couple of minutes walk away from two liquor stores, and a five minute drive from six more. It's remarkably easy to buy alcohol, and the notion that closing the stores on a Sunday is some sort of hardship is a form of pushing on a not very stiff string.

So:

Close grocery stores, electronic centers and home improvement stores etc. as well, could have bought all that stuff Saturday, ran out of nails, bread, beer and memory or phone dies, wait until Monday!

After all

try to find a government office open on Sunday.

Curious

Curious what the estimated cross border effect is on Sundays -- how much of neighboring states' Sunday sales come from MN consumers? And then how much extra alcohol shopping to MN consumers do in MN on Saturdays to get ready for Sunday drinking? Some estimates of the real consequences for total MN sales would be useful to know.

Of course I cross the border to get Spotted Cow, which I could do on any day of the week.

Curious what the estimated

Curious what the estimated cross border effect is on Sundays -- how much of neighboring states' Sunday sales come from MN consumers?

My theory is that if Sunday sales in Wisconsin were a serious competitive concern, liquor store owners would view Sunday sales more favorably. With so many liquor stores around, buying liquor is already so convenient, that making it even more convenient isn't a priority.

So then what are you arguing?

Presumably folks already have the booze, negating your drunk driving concern. You aren't limiting access, as you've stated access is as easy as it could get. What exactly are the merits of your position beyond "Just because"? Would you actively fight against legislation were a majority of owners in favor? If so, why? It seems to me it's personal dislike masquerading as public concern.

What exactly are the merits

What exactly are the merits of your position beyond "Just because"?

The merit is that liquor store employees get Sundays off.

"Would you actively fight against legislation were a majority of owners in favor?"

No. It's not my job to advocate for liquor store owners. And it's up to them to decide what they want. I wouldn't want to interfere with their freedom.

"It seems to me it's personal dislike masquerading as public concern."

Dislike of whom? Or of what? I like business owners, and am generally inclined to go along with what they want, particularly here where the issue isn't very important.

I dont know that its been established

That liquor store employees WANT Sunday off, so hard to count it as a point of merit, presumably they,like anyone else, may have circumstances arise that require them to take other days off during the week. They might in that instance welcome the opportunity to make up hours on a Sunday. As for last point, the dislike appears to be toward anyone inclined to enjoy their legal privilege to imbibe alcoholic beverages, in any quantity. That's your right, but it seems to be all that informs the otherwise silly argument that this industry (and auto dealerships even more confusingly) deserves special regulation, beyond that administered to every other business entity in the state.