I read an interesting article from MPR’s Tim Pugmire today, about the chances for the Sunday sales debate rearing its head again during the 205-2016 session.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he voted against lifting the ban on Sunday sales in the past and will do it again this session when and if it comes up.
“Most of these liquor stores are small mom and pop shops, and they’d really like a day off,” Davids said. “It’s worked fine in Minnesota for many, many years. You know, if you open it up on Sundays you simply are spreading the same number of sales over another day. So, I’ve come down on the side of small business owners.”
That argument has been around for a decade, but it has a major logical flaw: nobody at the legislature is saying we should compel the stores to stay open on Sunday. The following has been brought up before, but Sunday sales opponents apparently aren’t getting the message: eliminating the ban would mean private liquor store owners and cities could open if they wanted to, or they could stay closed- it’s completely up to them.
Let’s say store A isn’t open on Sundays, but neighboring Store B is.
If competition from Store B is enough to make it financially essential for Store A to cave and open one more day every week – isn’t that proof their potential customers want to be able buy on Sunday? Can’t they just close on the day with the least amount of sales?
Also, how do we “know” adding Sunday sales would simply stretch out the profits over seven days? In Georgia, for example, a PolitiFact report rated a claim the state would gain an additional $4.8 million in sales tax revenue as “Mostly True.”
A different MPR report, in 2013, got some liquor voices that aren’t tied to the Teamsters or the Municipal Beverage Association: the craft brewers. These artisan beermakers support lifting the ban.
Jamie Robinson, owner of Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub in south Minneapolis, supports Sunday sales. He estimated that his business loses between $12,000 and $15,000 in sales each year because he can’t sell beer in growlers on Sunday.
“Craft beer is really popular right now and we feel like there are 52 days a year when we have a product people want and they’re just not able to buy it because there’s a group of retailers out there who just won’t want to work Sundays,” Robinson said. “We’re open Sunday and we feel like we should be able to sell the products we have.”
Brewpubs, which produce their own beer, must also sell food by state law and are unable to distribute their beer to retailers. That means Northbound doesn’t depend on distributors or liquor stores to sell its product. Robinson said that breweries with taprooms, which often see the bulk of their business come from sales in liquor stores, have little incentive to cross distributors and retailers who oppose Sunday liquor sales.
“I’ve talked to several different packaging brewers and they’d like to see Sunday sales as well, I believe they just don’t want to rock the boat,” Robinson said. “That’s where everything gets hung up, there’s just not a big enough craft brewers voice out there at this point.”
In Bemidji, elected city officials I’ve talked to have spoken against Sunday sales at the two municipal liquor stores that put up some of the highest sales numbers in the state in 2013.
It would be interesting to see what Bemidji Brewing, our local brewpub, has to say on the idea. I contend they’d probably be in favor of legislation that could stand to generate more money for the City of Bemidji and private small businesses, as well as give the consumer more power in the process.