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Sunday liquor sales not making or breaking local retailers

Balloons let people know that the Sunset Bottle Shoppe in Rice Lake was open for business on July 2, the first day of Sunday liquor sales in the state of Minnesota. (News Tribune file photo)

Decades of dryness. Years of debate. An anticlimactic finish.

So how is that whole Sunday liquor sales thing going?

"It's just kind of a wash I think," said Tim Peterson, owner of Woodland Liquors in Duluth.

Local spirits sellers are reporting a mixed bag when it comes to selling on Sundays, which the Minnesota Legislature has allowed them to do since July.

"A lot of people came in that first Sunday just because they could — the novelty of it — and it's staying pretty steady," Peterson said. "The electricity is already on anyway. It's kind of a one-person day."

On the west side of town the story was largely the same.

"If anything it was a hot start and it's quietly mellowed out," said 27 Liquor assistant general manager Brandon Pesta. "There's still plenty of business to stay open for us."

While most area stores are keeping their doors open on Sundays, Canal Park Liquors decided to close on Sundays again after a busy summer.

"We opened as soon as the option was available to us, and we did really well over the summer and even into the fall," manager Tanya Rabold said. "But typically, as Canal Park slows down after Labor Day and the leaves fall, so did our Sunday sales."

Rabold said they'll consider opening on holiday weekends and add back the seventh day permanently when the tourists start returning next year.

"If we have a nice, warm early spring — even opening fishing, if weather permits — we'll start being open on Sundays again," she said.

Up at Cash Wise Liquor, business has remained steady on Sundays with help from last-minute shoppers and football fans.

"We're continuing to see traffic on Sundays," said Kevin Hurd, spokesperson for Coborn's Inc., parent to Cash Wise Liquor. "It goes back to that idea that we didn't have this opportunity before to serve those guests who may have a last-minute need to purchase liquor ... now we have the opportunity."

Hurd added the timing was right for the Legislature's long-awaited Sunday sales approval, since Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve both fall on Sundays this year — and Minnesota will host plenty of thirsty revelers on Super Bowl Sunday in February.

"People lead busy lives and forget to pick something up, so just the added convenience is something nice we can provide," Hurd said.

If convenience and choice was what at last sold the state on allowing Sunday sales, the threat to small businesses' bottom lines used to argue against the move has yet to materialize.

Peterson at Woodland Liquors said that business has dipped a little on Saturdays and Mondays as six days of liquor shopping is now spread out to seven, with all other things held constant.

"It's not going to make people drink any more, it just changes when they buy it."

Brooks Johnson

Brooks covers business and the economy for the Duluth News Tribune.

(218) 723-5329
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