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Another try at Sunday liquor sales could start with ‘baby step’

ST. PAUL — Allowing liquor stores to open on Sundays remains a steep climb in the Minnesota Legislature, so its prime proponent is willing to accept “baby steps.”

Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, has introduced seven bills that to varying degrees allow Sunday sales, including some that make minor changes in existing state law that bans liquor store sales.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, has said he does not see how the House goes from the repeal receiving 20 votes in the past to a repeal passing this year.

Reinert agreed. “We are not there yet,” Reinert said of a full repeal of current law, a task he has undertaken the last several years.

Bills he has introduced in the Senate and Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, plans to bring to the House give lawmakers a range of options.

While the two have a full repeal plan ready, they also have measures to allow local governments, such as cities, to decide whether Sunday sales are allowed in their communities.

One of the “baby step” bills would allow craft brewers to sell “growlers” on Sundays; growlers are bottles people fill up at the small breweries. Another little movement is a bill to allow tap rooms in craft breweries to sell on Sundays.

Bills to allow craft brewers to sell on Sundays is important, the senator said, because it would help give “some traction” to the relatively new industry.

Also awaiting possible action is a bill that would allow the public to vote on a constitutional amendment to ban Sunday sales.

Loon said allowing Sunday sales allows “economic freedom” for liquor stores.

Liquor store owners are divided on Sunday sales. Some say they could make more money if they were allowed to sell on Sundays. Others want to stay closed but say they would be forced to open on Sundays just to compete, which would raise their costs.

Reinert faces a March 21 deadline to get a Sunday sales bill passed by Senate committees, but he said he will bring one up only when he knows he has enough votes for it to pass.

Loon and Reinert said they will keep up their years-long attempt to allow Sunday sales. If one of the “baby step” bills passes, they promised to return until a full repeal is approved.

“This may have to be a multi-year process,” Loon said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.