OTHER OPINION: LIQUOR | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

OTHER OPINION: LIQUOR

Make Sunday sales an option

Posted: March 9, 2011 - 6:00pm

At least there is a somewhat new twist — albeit an ironic one — on legislative debate this session about an oft-heard proposal to allow Minnesota liquor stores to be open Sundays.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association — the big liquor lobbyist at the Capitol — opposes the measure because it claims the costs of being open another day are greater than anticipated sales.

For starters — and, ummm, maybe we’re missing something here — the legislation does not require liquor stores to be open. It merely offers them the option. For an industry already so heavily regulated, it’s ironic its main objection is about being given a choice.

More importantly, though, (and perhaps reflective of literally where the association’s power is based) is that news reports from across the state show liquor store operators have dramatically differing opinions about Sunday sales.

A recent Star Tribune report quoted a Minneapolis liquor store owner who labeled the measure foolish. Similarly, the MLBA spoke against it. However, news reports from cities bordering Wisconsin and North Dakota quote store owners as saying it’s essential because they are losing business.

All of Minnesota’s neighbors — even Canada — allow Sunday sales. In fact, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States says about 3 percent of Wisconsin’s taxed liquor sales comes from Minnesotans buying there on Sundays. The council in 2009 also reported that 12 other states that began allowing Sunday sales between 2002 to 2005 generated $212 million in additional sales within a year.

Really, though, even the debate about tax revenues gets to the heart of this issue: the consumers’ ability to choose between buying on-sale or off-sale liquor on Sundays.