Like brewers hosting a beer tasting, the legislators trying to repeal Minnesota's law against selling liquor on Sundays have set up a variety of samples, hoping to appeal to every taste. There are local options, to let municipalities make up their own minds. There's a constitutional-amendment option, to send the question to voters. There are tap-room options, to let microbreweries sell growlers to go, any day of the week.
But Andrew Schmitt, director of the consumer group Minnesota Beer Activists, is going straight for the hard stuff.
"As consumers, we advocate for full repeal," he said Friday on The Daily Circuit. "And that's really what we've heard from other consumers. ... Measured steps are what make sense, maybe, for the Legislature to take — baby steps, small bites at a time, to move into the modern era ...
"Personally, I don't think it's going to be crazy to have Sunday liquor sales, but if it's going to take turning up the water slowly on that frog, if you've got to, a little bit at a time, warm it up, if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes."
The Licensed Beverage Association, which represents liquor sellers, takes a different view, opposing any change in the law. ``We believe many businesses will see no benefit from the change and will experience increased costs in doing business,'' it says in a statement. ``Unless alcohol consumption increases, our mom-and-pop stores will see increased costs without increased revenues.''
Schmitt pointed out that there are "only 27 Minnesota independent liquor stores with less than four employees. So the mom-and-pop liquor stores that they claim to be protecting, I don't know where they are. ... But they also represent on-sale establishments, so those establishments outnumber their off-sale establishments 2 to 1."
"Honestly, if stores don't want to open, they don't have to," Schmitt said. "There's really nothing going to change if retailers don't want to change."
Schmitt acknowledged that stores whose competitors open for business on Sundays will create pressure to do the same for businesses that would prefer to remain closed. "Sure, but Chick-fil-A doesn't open," he said. "Neither does Hobby Lobby, neither do plenty of places."
A caller from Duluth pointed out that he does his Sunday grocery shopping in Wisconsin, so he can bring home a bottle of wine to have with dinner. The caller didn't see why he should have to shop in Wisconsin instead of Minnesota, and Schmitt agreed.
"People are tired of sending their money over the border," he said.