Minnesota's long road to Sunday alcohol sales

Surdyks liquor
Sunday sales are now legal in Minnesota. Here's how our liquor laws have changed since Prohibition.
AP file

A Minnesota tradition has come to an end.

July 2 will be the first Sunday that Minnesotans won't need to run across any neighboring state's border for booze.

Last Sunday, cars with Minnesota license plates flocked to border liquor stores one more time.

Debbie Jeffers of Wabasha was among the Minnesotans who crossed state lines out of necessity on June 25. Outside Price Rite Liquors in the Wisconsin border town of Prescott, Jeffers said she's looking forward to not having to make Sunday trips across the border.

"I think it's just convenient," Jeffers said of legalized Sunday sales. "I mean, it seems to be that's the day you have your gatherings and a lot of things going on, and it's just nice to know you can pick up anything you might need."

It took a lot to get to here, though.

There were years of arguments at the Capitol. Claims of lost tax revenue. Suggestions that small businesses would hurt if they had to compete with the Total Wines of the world. Some shop owners just wanted a day off.

The 2011 "Surly bill" legalizing growler sales on Sunday was an incremental step toward outright Sunday sales, but it took another six years for for the Legislature to pass such a measure.

Minnesota's liquor sales laws have always been strict compared to its neighbors. In fact, the old Sunday sales ban dates back to Prohibition. Let's start there with a little history on our liquor laws:

• 1919 — Prohibition begins: The 18th Amendment, better known as Prohibition, takes effect, banning all booze in America. Except for hooch.

• 1933 — Booze is back: After 14 exhausting years of brewing moonshine, Minnesota ratifies the 21st amendment, ending Prohibition. It was, however, late to the game: Wisconsin re-legalized booze some six months before Minnesota.

• 1972 — 18 becomes drinking age: The 26th Amendment brings both the voting and drinking age down to 18 years old.

• 1976 — Minnesota reverses course: Minnesota became the first state to raise the drinking age to 19, forcing 18-year-old ne'er-do-wells across the border for their beer. Border-town bars in places like Hudson, Wis., become hot spots for newly minted adults seeking a drink.

• 1986 — Into the present: The Minnesota Legislature raises the drinking age back up to 21, and creates a bigger market of booze border-hoppers.

Research and reporting by MPR News' Sara Porter and George Dornbach.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.