While I consider myself very knowledgeable about beer, my knowledge about politics is somewhat lacking. I have kept myself up-to-speed with some of the beer legislature happenings and enjoy supporting the cause of expanding sales of alcohol in Minnesota on Sundays.
Actually, I have always enjoyed government, history, advocacy…but what I really don’t like about politics is the, well, politics.
Last night, however, I was more than impressed by a town hall meeting that took place in St. Louis Park with Senator Ron Latz and State Representatives Ryan Winkler and Steve Simon. One of the many issues being openly discussed was the sale of beer, wine, and liquor on Sundays. The bill that is being proposed in the Minnesota Senate, which did not pass last year, is expected to again be voted on this year, and this meeting was an opportunity for southwest metro citizens to come before their representatives in support of the issue of Sunday Sales.
All three politicians present stated that they had voted against the bill in the past, and the resounding reason they offered was that liquor stores have stated that they do not want the law to change.
However, the first speaker on the issue, Jason Alvey, owner of The Four Firkins Beer Store on 36th St, announced that the number of liquor stores that are in favor of Sunday sales has now reached 60, and not all stores have even been contacted at this point. Alvey asked those in the room to raise their hands if they were in favor of Sunday sales — nearly the entire room did and some even cheered. What’s more, a great number of people were actually present in the meeting primarily for the subject of Sunday sales.
Michael Wagner, an employee of Jason Alvey, also reiterated the fact that employees want the convenice of working on a Sunday, and that stores pay the same bills on those 52 days a year on which they are not allowed to earn money. Sunday, the second biggest day of the week for most retailers, would offer a significant revenue opportunity; the only increase in cost to open on a Sunday would be payroll, obviously worth it when you consider that every state who has repealed a Sunday ban has seen an increase in sales. Only two states still prevent Sunday sales, by the way.
The Senator and Representatives were grateful to hear from a small business owner, and Representative Winkler went on to say that he sees this as primarily a “small business issue”. He said that he has heard from municipal liquor stores that oppose changing the law. Winkler added that he weighs the argument against the issue of consumer convenience and that he is impressed by the advocacy.
Speaking of consumer convenience, a local business owner spoke on behalf of busy consumers, parents, and those holding multiple jobs. She reminded the crowd that for many, Sunday is just another day, whether to work, play, or shop. Consumers support Sunday sales by an impressive margin.
One man, who was actually present to discuss his opposition to the minimum wage increase, spoke on behalf of the other side, citing Jeanne McEvoy, President of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association. Colorado, which began allowing Sunday sales in 2008, is seen as an example for other states who are considering legislative changes. He claimed that, according to McEvoy, “many mom and pop stores have closed” as a result of the change. This is actually not what Jeanne had to say at all, as far as has been publicly released. She cited an overall growth in revenue within the Colorado liquor industry from the time that the state began to allow sales on Sunday: “Even in terrible economic conditions, Sunday alcohol sales have turned out to be a huge success for both retailers and the state treasury”.
From the reading that I have done regarding Colorado, individual liquor store owners haven’t seen any sort of incredible increase in sales, but continue to support the change. One liquor store owner spoke to State Bill News about this opinion. “Sunday liquor sales have increased business…, but not nearly as much as they were supposed to. Sundays have not become one of his busiest sales days, he said. However, he does not regret the passage of Senate Bill 82, which allowed Colorado liquor stores to stay open seven days a week.” The same article shared the perspective of other liquor store owners who cited the importance of consumer convenience despite the fact that Sunday is not always the biggest day of sales, one owner saying, “I would be open eight days a week if I could”.
credit: Growler Mag
Senator Ron Latz cited his hesitance for change referring to ”laws that are primarily historic”, thereby invoking many of the religious arguments that fuel one side of the debate. He has made this argument before, and it is the one that frustrates me the most personally. Although no longer a primary reason for the lack of legislative change, some on the opposition continue to refer to Blue Laws as being in place for a reason. “Sunday is a day of rest”, they say.
Worried about a lack of church attendance due to liquor stores opening their doors? Ever been to church on Superbowl Sunday? As a life-long church attendee, I can promise that football takes more butts out of seats than beer ever could.
My soapboxes aside, one of the major issues here is loss of revenue, especially considering the proximity of the Twin Cities to Wisconsin.
On any given Sunday, over half of license plates in Hudson liquor store lots and at many western Wisconsin breweries are from Minnesota. What’s more, those involved with the beer industry in Wisconsin have come out against Minnesota changing the law. If Wisconsin is taking action like this, it is evident that significant revenue is being lost from Minnesota.
Or, eleven out of twelve cars in this case. Credit @choosychugger
Some argue that Minnesotans should merely plan ahead, but the question is, why should we have to?
So where was Representative Simon on the issues? He didn’t make many clear points. He said something to the effect of “keep organizing” to the large majority in the room who strongly want to change the law. He stated that the liquor industry “wants to be regulated” but didn’t elaborate.
I got so fired up about the issue again while writing this that I emailed Ron Latz with some of my own personal arguments. You can do the same here:
Ron Latz (DFL) Senate / Ryan Winkler (DFL) House / Steve Simon (DFL) House
If, like most Minnesotans, you support the sale of alcohol on Sunday, contact your local congressperson. This is our year, and I implore you to let your voice be heard!
I am very grateful that I attended this meeting. It was incredibly enlightening and it made me very proud of my community. I valued the opportunity to have this discourse and I am humbled by the number of people in attendance and the number of hours spent pursuing this vital change.
For more information please see: MN Beer Activists, The Four Firkins, Prior Town Hall Meeting, and Sunday Sales MN
Full disclosure: I work for the Four Firkins and Minnesota Beer Activists has published my work. Please see links within text for sources. And please — contact your congresspeople!