Open letter on Sunday liquor sales

Politicians have been mostly taking their victory lap in the days since the Minnesota Legislature ended its 2014 session, but there remains an issue that they can’t seem to outrun — Sunday liquor sales.

Minnesota is one of a dozen states that doesn’t allow Sunday sales. The liquor store industry, supposedly at the behest of the “mom and pop” stores, have killed all efforts to change this fact for years and while it seems to come up every session, there’s no real indication it’s losing its lobbying grip on lawmakers.

On his blog, Second Runnings, Jamison Swift sounds very much like he’s pretty much had it with the owners, penning an open letter to them this week.

Every retail and hospitality business has had to deal with the question, “What hours do I keep?” They do analysis of the market and determine the most profitable times to open their doors. If opening early, or staying open late doesn’t pay for itself, then a business does not keep those hours. Tens of thousands of businesses in Minnesota, across every industry, have made decisions about the best hours to open their doors, with a 7 day schedule in mind. Businesses should have the freedom to make that decision on its own merit, based on consumer demand, not on an antiquated law.

Second, the argument is made that opening on Sundays simply spreads out 6 days worth of sales into a 7th day. Studies have shown that this is not accurate. When other states, such as Colorado, have repealed their Sundays sales law, they found an increase of up to 5-7% in liquor taxes collected. This means that there is actually an untapped market on Sundays. Unlike some products, liquor can often be a spur-of-the-moment purchase. People often make leisure plans within the same day, and if they have an option, and desire, to make liquor a part of those plans, they will often exercise that option. I know for a fact that, personally, I have been invited to a same-day BBQ, or other gathering, on a Sunday evening and realized I don’t have a bottle of wine to bring, and have no way to acquire one. From a business perspective, this is lost sales. I’m probably not going to purchase that bottle of wine on Monday.

Additionally, there is no reason that a liquor store owner cannot adjust their entire weekly schedule to accommodate a 7-day business. There is nothing stopping a store owner from adjusting their weekly hours to maintain the same number of total ‘open hours’ in a given week, spread over one extra day. Or limiting Sunday hours to a few peak afternoon hours to accommodate the bulk of the impulse purchasing that may occur.

Swift says the ban is hurting Minnesota’s reputation, which likely makes it more difficult to convince out-of-staters to open a business here.

Eventually, the ban will fall. Some think this week’s Super Bowl announcement for Minneapolis will be the shove that’s required.

“Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, and the state’s economic impact would be considerably diminished if liquor stores weren’t open,” the St. Cloud Times’ Dave Deland wrote this week.