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Minn. House rejects Sunday liquor sales repeal

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota won't be legalizing Sunday liquor sales this year. A few weeks after the state Senate shot down a repeal of Minnesota's Sunday sales law, the House considered a more moderate version but gave it the same verdict. State Rep. ...

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota won’t be legalizing Sunday liquor sales this year.

A few weeks after the state Senate shot down a repeal of Minnesota’s Sunday sales law, the House considered a more moderate version but gave it the same verdict.

State Rep. Jenifer Loon’s proposal would have replaced the statewide ban on Sunday liquor sales with a local option. Individual cities and towns could have decided whether or not they wanted Sunday liquor sales.

“Eden Prairie is different from Ely,” said Loon, R-Eden Prairie. “Your local unit of government is the appropriate body to make the decision affecting local businesses, local consumers, local taxpayers.”

Sunday liquor sales are a perennial issue at the Minnesota Legislature, and support for a repeal has been building in recent years. But opponents argue Sunday sales would primarily help big-box liquor stores and hurt smaller family stores, for whom the law currently means a day off each week.

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“To me, this looks like an all-out assault on mom-and-pop liquor stores,” said Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato. “They will incur an additional 52 days a year of overhead with almost no appreciable increase in revenue.”

Another factor is opposition from the Teamsters union, whose members deliver liquor to stores and oppose Sunday sales.

Loon’s amendment was defeated 75-57. Unusually for the Legislature, the vote didn’t follow party lines, with significant members of both the DFL and Republican parties on each side.

The majority Republicans split 43-28 in favor of Sunday sales. The DFL minority went the other way, voting 47-14 against Sunday sales.

An Oak Park Heights liquor store owner, Kim Wilson, praised the House vote.

“This could have created a dysfunctional patchwork of alcohol laws and an ineffective means of commerce regulations - and would make the sale of alcohol the only product to be controlled in this way by a city-to-city basis,” Wilson said in a statement released by organizations backing the ban.

Advocates for Sunday sales promised they’d be back next year to try again.

“It is a question of when, not if, Minnesota joins the rest of its neighbors,” Dale Szyndrowski of the Distilled Spirits Council said in a statement.

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Without Sunday sales, the liquor bill passed the House overwhelmingly Tuesday. It does loosen Minnesota’s ban on Sunday sales in some small areas: allowing microdistilleries and craft breweries to make some limited sales on Sundays and allowing restaurants to serve alcoholic drinks starting at 8 a.m. instead of  10 a.m. - a so-called “Bloody Mary” clause.

It also bans the sale of powdered alcohol in Minnesota until at least June 2016.

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