Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Boozin' on Sunday

As most readers of this feature know, I grew up in Wisconsin, where you can buy alcohol pretty much any time you'd like, any day you'd like. When I moved here nearly 25 years ago, I was surprised to learn that you couldn't buy alcohol on Sunday in Minnesota, aside from warm 3.2 beer. That may change now, the Star Tribune reports:
The Minnesota House passed a bill on Monday legalizing the retail sale of alcohol on Sundays, but tipplers must win over a more resistant Senate before they can buy their beer, wine and spirits any day of the week.

This is the first time in state history that a legislative chamber has passed a bill overturning the Sunday ban, a law that has been in effect since statehood in 1858 and remained in place after Prohibition.

“It’s time to bring Minnesota liquor laws into the 21st century,” said Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, the bill’s chief author.
For the most part, blue laws are gone, although you can't buy a car in Minnesota on Sunday, either.  It's never been a major problem for me, since I don't drink much any more, but if you are throwing a football party or something similar, it's nice to have options other than piling in the car and driving to Hudson.

While the Star Tribune article reports that passage in the Senate is far from certain, it's possible we could have a change soon. This is a classic battle of special interests:
A wall of interest group opposition has for years stymied efforts to end the ban. It is led by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents bars and liquor stores that prefer the status quo and fear the end of the Sunday ban will lead to a cascade of deregulation — and with it, new competition — in what is currently a heavily regulated industry.

Tony Chesak, executive director of the group, issued a statement calling the vote “one step in a long legislative process.” Ending the prohibition, Chesak said, would “raise costs for small, family-owned businesses and consumers.”

Deregulating the liquor industry would “lead to reduced choices for consumers and the un-leveling of the playing field in favor of big box retailers,” he said.

A wave of lobbying muscle on the other side, led by such retailers as Total Wine, has weakened resistance to Sunday sales.
There's little question that Total Wine's entry into the market has made a difference. We have one nearby in Roseville, and the sheer scope of the enterprise makes smaller liquor stores seem inferior. I've mostly bought my booze from one of the two municipal liquor stores in Saint Anthony, although there are several other choices nearby. If I were looking to have a big blowout, I'd probably go to Total Wine -- the only reason I avoid going there is because it's too close to Rosedale Mall and I'm not a fan of the crowds or traffic in the area. Yeah, I'm getting cranky. Not as cranky as one of the foes of Sunday sales, however. Back to the Strib article:
Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said it was a “libertine” measure representing “licentious freedom.”

“I grew up in a time where adults limited and restricted their freedoms for the benefit of children, when it came to a product that has severe negative consequences,” he said.
How do I put this delicately? Gruenhagen is a moron.

On balance, I think opening sales up on Sunday is the right thing to do. Municipal liquor stores are a dubious enterprise on a number of levels, even though I currently use one. I'll be watching the results, more as an academic exercise than anything else.


Bike Bubba said...

How does Total Wine rank with Haskell's? I have gotten to like the latter (though they're not in Rochester yet, bummer) simply because there is far less "junk" to walk by and look around.

Count me as skeptical on Sunday sales myself. Freedom, yes, but on the flip side, if a person can't plan ahead for the big game enough to get to the store, how much do we want that person to be drinking?

R.A. Crankbait said...

Municipal liquor stores? Why not grocery stores, too? You know, for the children.

Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato.

Bike Bubba said...

RA: yup, and the one near me actually advertised that they would sell you what you "needed" when the relatives visited. So Hizzoner is going to get you drunk via the municipal liquor store.

jerrye92002 said...

I will defend Glenn Gruenhagen. Just because he disagrees with you doesn't make him a moron, and he has a good point regardless of the language used. I also don't really care about the issue one way or another, being a tee-totaler myself. And if six days isn't enough to get your buzz on, I don't see where another will make a difference. Competition for government liquor stores, sure. Tougher DWI laws and "public nuisance" enforcement? sure. Should folks be in church on Sunday instead of passed out in the park? Ideal but not realistic, and probably not relevant to this bill.

Bike Bubba said...

Just remembered the objection to Sunday sales that I read at one point. More or less, liquor sales don't depend on whether a shop is open on Sunday. Hence the "mom & pop" shop that decides to open on Sunday will have increased expenses, but most likely about the same revenue. Either that, or they get less revenue with the same expenses. They can't go from one worker to 6/7 of a worker, after all. Bigger shops can cut a few workers on weekdays and assign them to Sunday, so the law would benefit bigger players at the expanse of the smaller guy.

The flip side to that argument is that in most of the "mom & pop" shops I've been in, the overall impression is not that which Haskell's, or even a decent muni shop, makes--they tend to have far too much stuff that's "optimized for drinkability" (swill) and not much worth drinking. So I don't believe I'd miss them that much, really.

Mr. D said...

Looks like I need to respond to a few things here.

Total Wine is significantly bigger than Haskell's and has a wider variety of options. I like Haskell's, but they don't have a location very near me, either.

The point Bubba raises about competitive disadvantage is easily dispensed with. Allowing Sunday sales does not compel any liquor purveyor to open on Sunday, nor does it mean they can't compete. Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are closed on Sundays and their businesses do quite well. As for planning ahead -- yeah, sure, but if you decide to do something spontaneously on Sunday, you don't have the option. There's no compelling reason for that.

Jerry -- I fully support parents foregoing certain things for the sake of their children. My wife and I have done this ever since our children were born. We do it because it's the right thing to do. Gruenhagen would make that choice for everyone, including people who aren't parents. I have no use for that.

To be clear, I hold no brief for municipal liquor stores. The only reason I tend to shop at Saint Anthony is convenience. Of the liquor stores near my house, it's the cleanest and has the best selection. If the two proprietary liquor stores near my house would up their game, they'd have my (limited) business.

jerrye92002 said...

Where Gruenhagen "crosses the line" in your opinion is a tricky matter. If not selling liquor on Sundays is indeed a moral issue--i.e. "the right thing to do" (or not do, in this case)-- then it should perhaps be enshrined in law as something for the "common good" of the society. It would be just like we pass laws on murder, prostitution, illegal drugs, child abuse, even smoking. The "line" IMHO is pretty fuzzy and I don't like fuzzy. But we tried liquor prohibition and it didn't work, first because people reserved unto themselves the right to be responsible about it and, second, because the "wrong people" got rich helping them do it. The line is even fuzzier here, so I don't really care one way or another and can, to the degree I pay attention at all, see both sides and condemn neither. So all in all, I guess you're right. Imagine that. :-)

Gino said...

we should ban liquor sales all together out of respect to the growing somali community... or at least on fridays.

Bike Bubba said...

Agreed that liquor stores can try to pull a Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A and do well by not opening on Sunday, but they're going to have trouble getting fundagelicals to (a) admit openly that they drink and (b) promote "Craft Beer and Wine Lobby" to their friends because they're closed on Sundays. Are there enough Reformed fundagelicals out there to pull it off? Would Catholics go for that?

Not quite sure the fundagelical mojo would be there as it is for Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A, to put it mildly.

Mr. D said...

I dunno, Bubba. I'm Catholic and I eat at Chick-fil-A from time to time. I was planning to go to Hobby Lobby once with my daughter and that's when I found out they are closed on Sundays. She's shopped there since; they have a better selection and prices than some of their competitors. Both CfA and Hobby Lobby are relatiely new to this market and, from what I can tell, the lack of "fundagelical mojo" around here doesn't make any difference in their success. Most people simply don't think in those terms.

Bike Bubba said...

Might work, as I see a lot of "stick it in the eye of the left" up this way, not just fundagelicalism. But note what you say--HL and CFA more or less also have a better product, and it still helps to have conservatives/religious people on your side. The question is really how much it helps.

Maybe if they carried "Trump" wines? :^)

jerrye92002 said...

You raise a good question. A lot of companies roll over to appease a teensy tinsy minority of screaming leftists and offend a lot of live-and-let-live conservatives in the process. I think the louder the leftists get, the more conservatives seek to support the "victim" of their crapfests. And now that Trump has shown the way to poke fingers at the PC meanies, the more it will be done.