by CHRIS ROGERS
Should people be able to buy alcohol on Sundays? After historic action by the Minnesota legislature, that question will likely be left to City Councils across the state to decide this summer.
After years of unsuccessful attempts, Winona lawmakers may finally succeed in rolling back the statewide prohibition on Sunday alcohol sales. A bill co-authored by Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) would allow Minnesota cities the choice to permit or outlaw Sunday sales. It seems likely to become law after the Minnesota Senate approved it on Monday. The Minnesota House of Representatives passed it last week, and Governor Mark Dayton has said he would sign such a bill into law.
“It has taken several years of work, meetings, and education to get to this point, but I couldn’t be happier for the people of Minnesota,” Miller said in a statement. “This is the strongest grassroots effort by the people that I’ve seen on any issue during my time in the Senate. This entire effort has always been about choice. No liquor store will be required to be open on Sundays, but they should have the choice to do so if they want, just as consumers should have the choice to buy beer, wine, and liquor on whatever day is most convenient for them.”
Senator Mike Goggin (R-Red Wing) and Representatives Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) and Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) voted for the bill.
Champions of the bill argued that the archaic law spurs the residents of border cities to spend their money in other cities and other states. Opponents argued that the bill will hurt small businesses. For small stores, total sales are unlikely to rise, but competition may pressure them into opening on Sunday, increasing the businesses’ overhead, they stated.
There are minor differences between the House and Senate versions that must be reconciled before the bill can reach Dayton’s desk. The House version allows sales from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The Senate version allows sales from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Miller said the House will either accept the Senate’s version or request that a conference committee be created to work out that difference.
If the bill does become law, Sunday alcohol sales would become legal in Winona, unless the City Council takes action to adopt a local ban before the bill’s effective date: July 1. “I’m all for it,” council member Pam Eyden said of letting Sunday sales become legal. “There are other small towns or cities where this is accepted and I see no reason not to forge ahead,” she added.
“We are for it,” said Nik Kronebusch of the Winona Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits store. “The citizens of Minnesota should be for it. For me personally, being from Winona, right on the border, the amount of lost revenue to Wisconsin and Iowa is huge.”
Hwy. 61 Liquor owner Mark Swenson plans to open his store on Sunday, if it becomes legal. It might detract from Friday and Saturday sales, but on summer Sundays — when people might like to pick up a last minute six-pack for a picnic or ball game — Swenson expects the change would increase total sales. He preferred the House’s proposal to allow stores to open at 10 a.m., saying that waiting until 11 a.m. to open could cause a last-minute rush before noon football kickoffs or other events.
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