Others’ opinion: This year, end the Sunday liquor ban

Published 9:43 am Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Mankato Free Press

Many important issues will be highlighted in this just beginning state legislative session. From early childhood education to long-range transportation funding, lawmakers, lobbyists and the public will have plenty to debate in this budget-year session.

Another issue will also again come up — whether to end the state’s 80-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales. While the perennial issue has always met a quick death in the Legislature, this year could and should be different.

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The state, one of just 12 that bans Sunday sales, passed the ban just after prohibition was lifted. The move was a bow to those who still held a strong prohibition fervor at the time and to religious groups that felt Sabbath-day sales was morally wrong.

But today, Sundays are one of the busiest shopping days of the week and polls show the public — by a majority of more than 60 percent to as much as 80 percent — favor being able to buy liquor on Sundays.

The cost of the ban on many communities close to the borders is in the millions of dollars each year as Minnesota residents drive across state lines on Sunday to pick up some adult beverages.

Opposition to the lifting of the ban has come from liquor retailers themselves, many of whom believe that being open on Sundays would raise their costs without increasing their overall revenues. That may be true for some retailers who are not located near the borders, but it is not up to the Legislature to protect businesses from competition or to deny consumers what they clearly want.

The chances for a reversal of the Sunday ban appears to have more traction this year as Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’d sign such a bill and new Republican House Speaker, Kurt Daudt, said last session — when he was minority leader — that he would support a repeal of the ban if it came up on the floor.

The mood for Sunday sales has also been shifting even more as numerous micro-breweries have been started around the state — breweries that would like to sell growlers of their beer to customers on Sundays.

The end to the Sunday liquor sales ban is by no means among the biggest issues facing Minnesota, but it is an issue that is long overdue for putting to rest.