Legislators say Sunday liquor sales unlikely this session; Austin owners wouldn’t support measure
Published 11:44 am Thursday, February 28, 2013
Once again, Minnesota lawmakers have opened the can of worms about adding another element to what some call Sunday Funday: off-sale liquor.
However, small business owners aren’t so sure that’s a good idea, and the measure may not get any attention in the Senate.
The Senate Commerce Committee heard Sen. Roger Reinert’s alcohol bill on Monday, but no vote was taken. The Democrat from Duluth said Sunday sales legislation doesn’t have a House committee hearing scheduled, and legislators say the measure won’t likely come up for a vote in the Senate.
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Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, did not support the measure in the past but added he is open to hearing more about it and would support what locals are saying about it. Small business owners in Austin wouldn’t support such a measure.
“It’s just extra labor that we would have to pay out,” said Sheri Kokot, owner of Bell Liquor in Austin. “Also, people wouldn’t feel the pressure to buy on Saturday, so it’s going to kill some of the Saturday night sales.”
Nobody says liquor stores would have to open on Sundays. Owners could just choose to stay closed. But people like Kokot and Austin’s Apollo Liquor owner Dave Olson say that decision isn’t so simple.
“Most people think that all business owners want it, and we’re going for it, and we’re not,” Kokot said.
For example, if Kokot closed on Sundays while others opened, she could lose regular customers to her competitors, she said. Furthermore, liquor store owners say people who do their Sunday grocery shopping at grocery chains with their own liquor stores would pick up their liquor at the same time for convenience. Therefore, people like Olson and Kokot could lose even more customers.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Olson said. “But the next thing you know, all your business will be out at Hy-Vee and Walmart.”
While Sunday hours would potentially allow liquor store owners a chance to work on Sundays if they wanted to, Apollo manager Steve Aberg agrees with Olson. Sunday liquor sales wouldn’t add any revenue for their business, as it would spread out the same number of customers over a seven-day period. Olson said he would essentially be paying a staffer and extra utilities for the same amount of business if he stayed open.
“I think you’d just have the same amount of business spread over seven days,” Olson said.
Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said she hasn’t heard much support in the past for Sunday liquor sales. She said less than half a dozen residents have told her to support liquor sales on Sunday, while she has consistently heard opposition from liquor store managers and small business owners.
“They do not support it, they feel it would put them at a disadvantage to the larger stores that already stay open,” Poppe said. “They would prefer this not pass.”
Some say Sunday liquor sales would help border-town liquor stores that lose business to Wisconsin and Iowa on that day. However, Olson thinks people cross the border to buy alcohol anyway, regardless of the day. He says its a tax issue.
“I think that it’s a tax problem over an ‘I can’t buy it on Sundays problem,’” he said.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.