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Public sentiment only way Sunday liquor sales will happen in Minnesota

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans must loudly demand that lawmakers approve Sunday alcohol sales if the proposal has a chance to pass, its Senate sponsor says.

Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said the House is not going to consider a Sunday sales bill this year, so he will not pursue it unless the public raises a ruckus about the issue.

"I'm to the edge of my ability to do something," the senator said.

He added that he learned his lesson two years ago when he got the bill to allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays and holidays through a Senate committee, but it died when the House would not take action.

The Senate Commerce Committee heard Reinert's bill Monday, but did not act on it or most other liquor proposals it heard.

Reinert said Sunday sales supporters need to organize if his bill has a chance. He suggested an email campaign and perhaps a Capitol rally in support of the measure.

"The average Minnesotan thinks this is a no-brainer," Reinert said.

But Kip Earney, owner of Red Wing's West End Liquor, said for both personal and business reasons, he doesn't agree with the Sunday sales bill.

"I value my Sundays off," he said. "I don't want employees working on Sunday. I definitely don't want employees working on holidays. They should be home with their families."

In addition, Earney said he doesn't see Sunday sales would be large enough to justify being open on Sundays.

"The benefits aren't there," he said. "They won't buy more. They'll just spread (the amount they normally buy) out over seven days rather than six."

Earney's comments were echoed by representatives of many liquor stores, who said they could be forced to open on Sundays if the law passes.

Maryann Campo said her family has been involved in a Twin Cities liquor store since 1975.

"We don't feel it is financially feasible to do," she said of being open Sundays.

The Teamsters union, which represents many liquor store workers, expressed its strong opposition to working Sundays.

But Reinert rebutted: "You don't have to" open on Sundays.

If liquor store management likes things the way they are, he added, they need to make no changes.

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he fears small-town liquor stores would be especially threatened if a Sunday sales law is passed. "A lot of them are barely making it."

Earney agrees.

"It's going to be devastating for all the ... mom and pop shops," he said.

But Andrew Mikkelson, who owns Liquor King in Red Wing, said he would expect sales to increase 10 to 15 percent if he were allowed to be open on Sundays.

"It would only benefit the border towns," he said. "We would benefit because people who live in Red Wing who would normally drive to Wisconsin (would be able to buy here)."

Mikkelson said that the increase in sales would more than make up for more labor costs.

While the bill has little chance this year, it will be considered along with other proposals when Commerce Committee Chairman Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, puts together an overall liquor bill.

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