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Duluth senator wants liquor stores open on Sundays

Duluthians who want to grab an extra 12-pack at the last minute before Sunday's Super Bowl have two choices: Head to Superior or go thirsty.

But Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, introduced legislation Tuesday that would allow Minnesota liquor stores to stay open on Sundays.

The bill would repeal what is among the last vestiges of Minnesota's strict "blue" laws that at one time kept stores and other facilities closed on Sundays, ostensibly to keep people in church.

Minnesota is one of 14 states that forbid retail liquor sales on Sundays.

"Minnesota's current statutes prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays puts our state at a competitive and economic disadvantage -- particularly in communities that border Wisconsin," Reinert said in announcing the bill. "Wisconsin already got a win with the Packers going to the Super Bowl, why give them another win with Minnesota tax dollars" from Minnesotans spending their liquor money across the border.

Analysts for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States found that cross border purchases by Minnesotans driving to Wisconsin account for about 3.1 percent of the Badger State's taxed liquor sales.

"This bill is about the free market, giving both businesses and consumers a choice," Reinert said. "Stores could still choose to be closed on Sundays, and consumers could choose not to make a purchase. But let's allow for the choice."

The change would pump about $10.6 million into Minnesota's tax coffers. Sundays also are a busy liquor-shopping day, especially for 35- to 54-year-olds who buy 43 percent of all booze.

Reinert introduced the same bill while serving in the House last year but it failed to advance. But Reinert says the increased tax revenue might look good to lawmakers struggling with a $6.4 billion shortfall for the 2012-13 state budget.