Minnesota Senate rejects Sunday liquor sales

The Minnesota Senate has voted to keep in place the state’s longtime ban on Sunday liquor sales.

During the debate Thursday on a larger liquor bill, senators defeated an amendment to lift the ban. The vote was 35-28. There was bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition.

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, proposed the amendment to allow liquor stores the option of opening on Sundays.  Her proposal addressed a concern raised by the Teamsters Union by preventing deliveries to liquor stores on Sundays.

Kent said she sees no legitimate public policy purpose for continuing the ban on Sunday sales.

“I hear in my community, in Woodbury, repeatedly from business owners and from consumers that they are frustrated that sales and tax dollars go across the river to Hudson [Wisconsin] every single week,” Kent said.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, noted that the ban dates back to the 1930s, when "John Dillinger was public enemy number one."

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"The policy that this amendment repeals is an antiquated policy," Nelson said. "It really doesn't fit Minnesota today."

Opponents of the amendment raised concerns about how the change would affect small liquor stores.

Sen David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said main street liquor stores need a day off.

"The people that are working in these liquor stores are opposed to opening on Sundays, because they aren't going to make any money," Tomassoni said.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said she was concerned about the potential financial impact on municipal liquors stores that help fund public projects in her rural district.

“If we allow Sunday liquor sales, that only cuts into the bottom line,” Rosen said.

Senators passed the larger liquor bill on 51-11 vote. It allows for small brewers and brew pubs to sell off-sale beer growlers on Sunday. There’s also a provision that allow bars and restaurants to begin serving drinks at 8 a.m. on Sundays.

The House has not yet voted on its omnibus liquor bill. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, recently guaranteed a Sunday sales amendment will come up, and he predicted it has a 50-50 chance of passage.

But the Senate vote adds another hurdle.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said after the floor session that the Senate has now taken a strong position against Sunday sales.

Bakk, who voted against the amendment, said that position will matter in negotiations with the House.

“In the event the House brings it to conference, I don’t expect the Senate would take it in conference after we’ve taken a vote against it,” Bakk said.