by CHRIS ROGERS
After Minnesota lawmakers rolled back the state’s age-old prohibition on Sunday alcohol sales earlier this month, it is now up to individual cities to decide whether off-sale liquor will be legal in their town come Sunday, July 2. Across Winona County, some local city councils are embracing legalization, some are not sure yet, and some just have not talked about it.
“We will be amending our ordinance to reflect state statute,” said St. Charles City Administrator Nick Koverman. State Senator Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) championed the legalization of Sunday sales in part to avoid the loss of business and tax revenue to Wisconsin in border towns like Winona, but 45 minutes away from the Badger State, St. Charles plans to legalize Sunday sales, too. There has been no vote by the St. Charles City Council yet, Koverman reported, but the council talked about the change in state law last Tuesday and agreed to clear the way for St. Charles businesses to sell on Sundays, if they choose.
“I’m not for it or against it,” Goodview Mayor Steve Baumgart said in an interview. Baumgart does not drink himself, but he appreciates that the change may benefit businesses. “I always felt that Sunday is a day for — you know you attend church and have family time … It should be a day with the family, but times have changed and I understand they want to open it up,” he stated. “It’s not a high priority for me [to legalize Sunday sales], but times have changed and so be it,” he added.
The Goodview City Council has not yet discussed what to do, but the issue will likely be on the agenda soon, according to city administrator Dan Matejka.
Goodview and St. Charles are like many Winona County cities. State law may have changed, but the St. Charles city code currently includes language that prohibits Sunday sales. To allow Sunday sales, the St. Charles City Council would have to amend its ordinance. The city codes in Goodview, Lewiston, and Stockton also appear to prohibit Sunday sales. City Councils in those cities would have to take action to allow Sunday sales.
Conversely, the city of Winona has nothing on its local books to prohibit people from buying alcohol on Sundays. If the Winona City Council does nothing, liquor stores will be free to open their doors on July 2. The council would have to take action to stop businesses from selling on Sunday. The Winona City Council has not discussed it at any meetings, but members Pam Eyden and Gerry Krage said in interviews that they are fine with allowing legalization to take effect.
“To be honest we have not discussed it yet,” Stockton Mayor David Johannes said. “Personally, it doesn’t really bother me either way, but I would want to kind of gauge what people in town think so that we’re doing what we were voted in to do.” He said that, as far as he knows, the question of whether to legalize Sunday sales is not sparking passionate debates over living rooms and dinner tables in Stockton. “I haven’t heard much pro or con,” he said. In any case, Stockton will hold a public hearing before making any changes.
“At some point it probably will come up,” Lewiston City Council member Larry Rupprecht said. “I haven’t looked at it and don’t know what ramifications it would have for the community,” he added. The Lewiston council has not yet discussed the issue and it has more important issues to tackle first, like planning for capital investments, said city clerk Travis Brierley. However, Brierley said he would plan to put something on the agenda in April.
In Rollingstone, there are no liquor stores and only one gas station that currently offers off-sale liquor, according to city clerk Kristina Mart. The Rollingstone City Council has not yet discussed the issue of Sunday alcohol sales.
City officials in Elba and Altura were not immediately available for comment.