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Bring on the champagne, Sunday liquor sales passes in Minnesota

Minnesota House Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, the chief sponsor of the bill allowing Sunday liquor sales, talks before the House votes for concurrence with the Senate Amendments to the House File at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

ST. PAUL—Champagne corks could soon be popping — a bill repealing Minnesota's 159-year-old ban on Sunday liquor store sales is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The Minnesota House voted 88-39 on Thursday to accept the Senate's version of a bill repealing the ban that's been on the books since statehood. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign a repeal if it reached his desk.

Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, chief sponsor of the House legislation, noted the biggest difference in the Senate bill was the 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. time frame that liquor stores could be open. The version passed by the House allowed stores to open an hour earlier.

"It's time that we change this law, bringing Minnesota liquor laws into the 21st century," Loon said before the vote. "Allow Minnesota retailers to serve their Minnesota customers if they chose on Sunday and stop that migration of customers going across the border (to Wisconsin). Let's keep those revenues and these sales in our state."

Minnesota is one of a dozen states with so-called "blue laws" that prohibit liquor stores from being open on Sundays. Consumers are still able to purchase drinks in a bar or a restaurant.

In recent years, the Legislature has also relaxed some liquor rules, such as allowing breweries to sell growlers filled with beer on Sundays.

Supporters of the repeal say the ban was an antiquated law that interfered with the rights of businesses and consumers. They believe allowing liquor stores to operate on Sundays will keep Minnesotans from shopping in border states and bring in more revenue.

Opponents argue allowing Sunday sales will just spread sales over seven days instead of six. They don't believe there will be enough extra revenue to cover the cost of being open an extra day and that the change will hurt small-business owners and favor larger retailers.

Lawmakers included some provisions in their repeal bills to appease critics. For instance, the legislation prohibits liquor delivers on Sundays and restricts the time stores can be open.

Thursday's vote in the House picked up three more "yes" votes than the initial 85-45 vote Feb. 20. There were five more supporters total, but the vote total didn't show it because some House members were absent Thursday.

The Senate passed its version of the bill Monday by a 38-28 margin.

David Montgomery contributed to this report.

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