What’s the big deal with Sunday liquor sales?

Luther Dorr
Luther Dorr

It’s not a reason to approve the sale of liquor on the Sabbath in Minnesota just because all of Minnesota’s neighboring states allow it.

And neither is it a reason just because the Gopher State is one of only 12 states of the 50 (24 percent) not to allow the sale of liquor on Sunday.

But, hey, what’s wrong with the idea?

You don’t have to buy on Sunday if you don’t want to and you don’t have to sell on Sunday if you don’t want to.

It’s not quite that simple, you say?

It’s true that some people who sell liquor do not want to be open on Sunday.

One side says that revenues, including taxes, would get a boost for sure, while others say it would put them out of business.

The Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, which says it represents 90 percent of the state’s city-owned liquor stores, and the Minnesota Licensed  Beverage Association (about 2,000 members) have a strong lobby at the Legislature.

They don’t want Sunday liquor, saying that expenses would go up and that they’d have to pay employees over seven days instead of six, and they say there wouldn’t be a worthwhile increase in sales.

And some are afraid that if Sunday liquor is approved, wine sales would also be allowed in grocery stores, thus dealing a blow to some smaller liquor stores.

Some smaller family-owned liquor stores say that allowing Sunday liquor would hurt them.

Then there’s the other side. One of its points is that Sunday is the second-busiest shopping day of the week.

Supporters also say Sunday sales of liquor would produce anywhere from $7.5 million to $10 million in extra tax revenue. (Remember, estimates on both sides may be suspect.)

The Minnesota Grocers Association has spent more than $1 million on lobbying since 2005. That group would like to get in on selling wine in grocery stores.

Some say that stores on Minnesota’s borders lose significant revenue because Minnesota residents can drive across the border and purchase liquor. In Wisconsin they sell wine, beer and alcohol on Sunday, even in some gas stations and supermarkets.

Who really knows what would happen if the sale of liquor was allowed in Minnesota on Sunday?

Are you young enough to remember, or have you heard about, the fact that a few decades ago there were hardly any stores of any kind open on Sunday or holidays in Minnesota?

It was a chore to find a place to get gas in some areas. Grocery stores weren’t open, there weren’t many so-called convenience stores, and there weren’t malls to buy any and everything you needed on Sundays. You just planned ahead.

Now some say, what if Sunday liquor is allowed? Lots of other stores are open on Sunday.

One person who responded to a story about Sunday liquor had this to say: “All retailers would be very wise if they were all (except gas stations for travel) closed on Sundays. We all would buy just as many washing machines and apples whether the stores are open six days a week or seven. Just think of the lower operating costs for the same sales revenue.”

Maybe that’s a little unrealistic but the idea is there.

One solution proposed by some is to allow Sunday liquor but let the counties decide if they want it or not. Then the border counties could allow it so its stores could compete with stores just across the border.

Others have said if a store owner is worried about having to be open on Sunday because a neighboring store is open, and thus pay seven days of wages, why not close on a Monday or Tuesday like some restaurants do.

One of the comments sent to MPR when a bill was voted down last year put it this way:

“Who honestly believes that there is a single person who has ever said, ‘Shoot, since the liquor store is closed, I guess I’ll go to church instead and spend time with my family?’ ”

Some accused Republicans of blocking Sunday liquor in 2012 but now both the House and Senate in Minnesota are run by the Democrats so that shouldn’t be an issue anymore, if it ever really was.

Another responder to MPR put it this way: “I say why not try it for a year and see what happens? If the liquor stores lose money we go back to the old rules.”

I think some consumers would like to see the law changed but I doubt if many are losing sleep over the issue.

Sunday liquor began in 2012 in Connecticut and a liquor store owner there estimated that not having Sunday liquor had cost him $900,000 since bordering Massachusetts began allowing Sunday liquor in 2003. But can he prove that?

I really don’t care if they change the law or not. I can get along just fine without a change.

But what’s the big deal?