House, Senate pass Sunday liquor bill

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Rep. Tim Miller votes no, Sen. Andrew Lang yes

With both the Minnesota House and Senate having voted to approve a bill that would end the 159-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales in the state, the law is the closest it has ever been to passing.

A conference committee of the House and Senate now needs to meet to work out slight differences in language in the two bills. 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. Local governments are also given more power to opt out of Sunday sales as well as set hours under the Senate bill.

The House can take up the Senate-passed bill and pass it to bypass the conference committee process. If a revised bill is approved, or the House supports the Senate bill, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has said that he will sign the legislation.

When the state House voted last week 84-45 to lift the ban on Sunday liquor sales, District 17A Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) voted against the bill.

Monday when the state Senate voted on the bill, District 17 Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia) voted with the majority as the bill passed 38-28. Swift County is in District 17A and is served by Miller and Lang.

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

Minnesota is one of just 12 states that still ban Sunday liquor sales. Surrounded by states that open their liquor stores on seven days a week, proponents of removing the ban say cross-border beer runs into Wisconsin and North and South Dakota on Sundays cost the state precious tax collections.

Opponents from liquor industry organizations like the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association argue that allowing Sunday sales wouldn’t net stores more profit, but would increase costs, hurting small-town liquor stores the most.

“You’re just going to spread the number of sales from six days to seven days,” said Sen. Gary Dahms, a Redwood Falls Republican.

If the law passes, municipal liquor stores like Benson’s would have to make the decision whether or not they wanted to pay the added expense of being open on Sunday. Any decision would have to be based on how much it cost to stay open versus the potential lost sales. It would also depend on community input. Communities that prohibit Sunday liquor sales would have to amend their ordinances to allow them.

Under hours of operation, Benson’s alcohol ordinance says, “No sale of intoxicating liquor shall be made at any time or on any day which is prohibited by Minnesota Statutes Chapter 340A, or laws amendatory or supplementary thereof.” In others words, if the governor signs the law Benson could have Sunday liquor sales....


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