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Our View: A welcome goodbye to bottle bans

Prohibition just keeps ending. In 1933 for the United States. Last year for Duluth's Lakeside-Lester Park neighborhood. And in July for Sunday sales in Minnesota.

Good riddance to these laws that only stifled legitimate business, jeopardized public safety, and exacerbated drinking-related social and societal problems.

"This," Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, said last week in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about the Legislature's action this session to end — finally, after nearly 160 years — Minnesota's prohibition on Sunday sales, "doesn't have much to do with alcohol for me. For me, this is about artificially restraining the free marketplace; and whenever we can, I think we should get government out of the way and let people make our own decisions."

Nearly every other state — 38 of them, including every state touching Minnesota — saw the wisdom in that long ago.

Here in the Twin Ports, Minnesota's finally allowing Sunday sales will spell an end to unsafe beer runs on Sundays over our bridges, with drivers hoping the few already had weren't a few too many. It also means revenue from Minnesotans' purchases on Sundays will stay in Minnesota. That's expected to mean $10.6 million for the state in tax revenue now being lost annually because our liquor outlets are closed one day a week, according to an estimate by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

A similarly outdated prohibition on alcohol sales in Lakeside-Lester Park was ended by the Legislature last year. In place since the area's 19th-century annexation by Duluth — when everyone there, it was said, wanted to be dry — prohibition's support declined steadily over many decades. Almost half of residents had warmed to the idea of a liquor store or a bar in their midst by 2008 when a nonbinding referendum was on the ballot. In another vote in 2015, the percentage of those supporting repeal rose even more. By August, objections had become so minimal that almost no one attended when Duluth's Alcohol, Gambling and Tobacco Commission approved wine and 3.2 percent malt liquor licenses for a coffeehouse on East Superior Street. Commissioners deliberated only about 10 minutes, the issue had become so non-controversial and accepted.

National prohibition was famously a failure. Alcohol consumption actually increased between 1920 and 1933. So did crime, especially organized crime, stretching our courts and prisons to their breaking points and leading to rampant corruption among elected and other public officials.

The trend is in the right direction, with Minnesotans' Sundays now also included. That after years of legislative efforts by former Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth and others. They helped pave the way to a logical, beneficial outcome.

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