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Senate OKs Sunday liquor sales bill; Dayton expected to sign

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Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, chief author of the Sunday liquor bill
Growing public support to end Minnesota's Sunday liquor sales ban made the difference in getting it through the Senate, said Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, the bill's chief sponsor.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP

Updated: 4 p.m. | Posted: 9:47 a.m.

Minnesota senators on Monday backed legislation to lift the state's longtime ban on Sunday liquor sales. 

Senators voted 38 to 28 for the bill. The vote came one week after the House passed a similar measure by a convincing margin.

The House and Senate still need to work out final details, but Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll sign the final measure into law.

Under the bill, liquor stores would have the option of opening for business on Sundays. That could begin in July.

Minnesota is one of just 12 states that still ban Sunday liquor sales.

Supporters say lifting Minnesota's ban, which dates back to Prohibition, would mean an end to cross-border beer runs into Wisconsin and North and South Dakota on Sundays that cost the state tax revenue. 

Surdyks liquor
Minnesota is one of just 12 states that still ban Sunday liquor sales.
AP 2011

Growing public support to end the ban made the difference in getting it through the Senate, said Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, the bill's chief sponsor.

"This was a strong effort from the people by the people," he said. The public "spoke loud and clear, and the timing was right to get it done and we did."

Opponents from the liquor industry argue that allowing Sunday sales wouldn't net stores more profit, but would increase costs and hurt small town liquor stores the most.

"If they don't open on Sundays the people that normally shop there will find a big box store to go to and they may never go back to that small liquor store again," said state Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. "That will be the demise of these small stores. We don't need that in rural Minnesota. We don't need that in Minnesota at all."

Before it goes to Dayton for his signature, House and Senate members must agree on what time they will allow stores to open on Sundays. 

The Senate bill would let the stores open at 11 a.m. while the House version allows for a 10 a.m. opening. Stores would close at 6 p.m. under both bills.

Lifting the Sunday ban won't necessarily open liquor stores in every community. Municipal prohibitions on Sunday sales will remain in effect unless local officials reverse them. 

In addition allowing Sunday sales beginning in July, the legislation prohibits liquor store deliveries, ordering or marketing on Sundays.

Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, voted to keep the Sunday ban in place. He said he doesn't particularly care about the change but saw no pressing reason for it. 

Said Senjem: "Any desirous drinker that can't plan well enough, isn't smart enough, isn't able enough to buy their booze on Saturday night, probably shouldn't be drinking on Sunday anyway."