Drive to undo Sunday booze ban fails again

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ST. PAUL — A move to scrap Minnesota’s long-standing ban on Sunday liquor sales failed again in the state House, but opponents of the ban came much closer than two years ago.

The 75-57 vote, which came as part of a broader liquor bill Tuesday, essentially ends the Sunday sales debate this year. But it was thinner than in 2013, when just 21 House lawmakers voted to repeal the ban. The margin also narrowed in the state Senate, though the push to repeal the ban failed there as well.

Under the full liquor bill passed almost unanimously, bars could dispense alcohol starting at 8 a.m. Sundays, two hours earlier than currently allowed. Craft breweries could also sell 64-ounce growlers on Sundays.

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Rep. Jenifer Loon pushed to remove the ban by letting local governments — not the state — decide whether to bar Sunday sales.

“We do a lot of discussion about local control,” the Eden Prairie Republican said. “If this is something that your community wants, your local government should have the ability to make that choice.”

Bar owners, local liquor stores and delivery crews argue Minnesota’s prohibition of Sunday liquor sales — one of a dozen left in the nation — keeps their operating costs down. Repealing the ban, they say, would essentially force them open for a seventh day on already thin margins.

“To me this looks like an all-out assault on mom-and-pop liquor stores,” said Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’ll sign a bill legalizing Sunday sales if it reaches his desk, which now looks unlikely this year.

Dale Szyndrowski, central region vice president for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said in a statement that Sunday sales advocates made “incredible progress” this year.

“No other state in the region bans Sunday sales and it is a question of when, not if, Minnesota joins the rest of its neighbors,” Szyndrowski said.

House lawmakers also passed a public safety bill that would legalize gun silencers and require a count of untested rape kits across Minnesota. That bill wouldn’t restore voting rights for felons immediately after they’re released from prison, a break from the state Senate’s position.