Minnesota's Gonna Start Selling Devil Booze on the Lord's Day

Austin Ray

THE GIST
Beginning this July, Minnesotans can begin buying alcohol on Sundays, undoing a blue law that dates back eight decades to Prohibition. Despite personal reservations, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bi-partisan bill Tuesday, saying, “This new law reflects the desires of most people in Minnesota.” The issue has been somewhat controversial, however, as some have worried smaller stores would feel forced to stay open an extra day to compete with larger chains with more resources. The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, an organization representing the state’s retailers, opposed the bill.

WHY IT MATTERS
The repeal of Sunday sales is the latest in a series of strides made by lawmakers to make Minnesota more progressive with regards to how it regulates alcohol—at least when looking at the state through beer-centric lenses.

Earlier this year, we reported that a state representative filed a bill to enable larger breweries to sell growlers (that bill was referred to the Commerce and Regulatory Reform committee, but no relevant action has been posted since).

Before that, in 2015, the state made it legal for breweries to sell growlers on Sundays, specifically “to give small brewers a helpful income stream and provide another small opening in the state’s long-standing blue laws,” per the Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Perhaps most notably, though, in 2011 the state passed what was colloquially known as the “Surly Bill,” which enabled production breweries to sell their own beer by the pint for on-premise consumption.

Now, while it’s true that the Sunday sales bill in question today is relevant to not only breweries, but rather all alcohol producers, there are some brewer-specific ramifications to it.

Namely, it frees up consumers to choose from a much wider variety of beers than they previously could, thanks to one of those infamous 3.2 beer laws. “For years…it meant having to make do with 3.2 beer because the lower-alcohol beer was the only thing available if a Sunday party popped up,” the State Tribune writes. (Minnesota remains one of only three states left in the country that still has 3.2 beer laws on the books, which limits grocers and other non-alcohol focused retailers to selling beer of lower potency.)

With Minnesota shaking free of one of the last—but persistent—vestiges of Prohibition, there are now only a handful of states that outright ban Sunday alcohol sales (though there are others that limit the hours stores can operate on Sundays). But it’ll be worth watching to see how brewers are affected by having their beer more widely available for 53 (fifty-three!) more days a year. And maybe other states will be watching, too.

—Dave Eisenberg

READ MORE
Shoppers endorse new law legalizing Sunday sale of alcohol [Star Tribune]