Sunday liquor sales torpedoed again

In what is now seemingly a yearly tradition at the State Capitol, the effort to end Minnesota’s prohibition on Sunday liquor sales was torpedoed again by a combination of labor and liquor industry interests.  Last year’s effort failed on an overwhelming vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Once again, the State Legislature — by kowtowing to special interest pressure — worked against clear majorities of Minnesota citizens.  Polling has consistently shown public support for Sunday liquor sales runs over 60%.

What are some of the arguments against Sunday liquor sales?  Let’s look at them:

“If you don’t open on seventh day and your competitors do, there goes your customer base,” said Edward Reynoso, political director for Teamsters 32 Joint Council.

Well, there’s certainly something to be said for competitive pressures.  But, let’s face it, there’s more to business success than just being open seven days a week (or as long as your competitors).  If that were the case, would it be possible to have a thriving fast food restaurant chain that’s closed on Sundays?  Or would it be possible to be a successful general retailer that closed at 10 p.m. every night instead of staying open 24 hours like its main competitor?

Maryann Campo, who opened South Lyndale Liquors in Minneapolis in 1975, said the bill would raise her store’s labor costs without boosting profits.

“We don’t see any economic advantage,” Campo said.

There’s nothing in the bill that would require liquor stores to be open seven days a week.  In fact, it might make more economic sense for a liquor store to close on Mondays (as some restaurants do) to maximize profits.

But even more to the point — let’s say Campo is right.  Why, then, should liquor stores (and auto dealerships) get the benefit of these blue laws?  It would be cheaper for every business open seven days a week to only be open six days a week.  Target and Best Buy and any number of other retailers would benefit in the same way that liquor stores do.  Why not ban all commerce on Sunday, then?

And certainly, employees of other businesses could equally benefit from this line of argument:

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association has lobbied effectively against the change every year with the same argument: Its member stores want one day off a week

The train has already left the station on that one, I’m afraid.  It would be nice if everyone could convince the Legislature to dictate a work-free Sunday, but it’s just not practical — nor is it good economics.

[Rep. Pat] Garofalo opposes broader Sunday sales, which he said would increase stores’ labor costs, only to be passed on to consumers.

“It means higher liquor prices. The public doesn’t understand that,” he said.

See the above answer for a response to the raising prices question.  But here’s where things really get interesting.  Garofalo has spent significant time this session braying about how Governor Mark Dayton’s budget will drive business over Minnesota borders.  Perhaps Garofalo should be equally worried about Minnesota businesses already losing revenue to Wisconsin as he is about whether or not Moorhead gets an Applebee’s.

Even more telling here is how many Republicans (Carver County’s own Joe Hoppe and Ernie Leidiger included) forget about their free market principles on this issue.  There’s precisely no free market rationale here to defend this prohibition.  And there’s precious little to stand on when it comes to social concern, either.  If we’re going to sell liquor in bars and restaurants on Sunday, why not allow people to buy a 12-pack and take it home with them?  Isn’t that better than letting them get their buzz on and then drive home?

Jason Alvey, the owner of Four Firkins in St. Louis Park, puts it best:

“It is the year 2013, yet I pay rent 52 days a year that I’m not allowed to open my business, and I think that’s very frustrating. Let’s gain the extra tax revenue. Let’s give the people what they want. Let’s give progressive retailers like myself the ability to run our businesses how we see fit.”

It’s time to put pressure on the Legislature to get out of the way and to do the right thing.  If you’re interested in changing this law, I encourage you to contact your legislator as well as supporting organizations like Minnesota Beer Activists that are working to make sure the Legislature listens to the will of the people.

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5 Responses to “Sunday liquor sales torpedoed again”

  1. Seems most of the businesses don’t want it. I’m not sure what makes the guy you quoted a progressive retailer. Does that mean his prices go up cased on your income?

    • Fine, then they don’t have to open on Sundays. There’s no economic rationale for mandating that all liquor stores be closed on Sunday.

  2. The arguments on this were presented last year when the bill came up.
    http://www.minnpost.com/intelligencer/2011/03/sunday-liquor-sales-who-fighting-them-and-why

    Then as here, everyone misses the real battle going on. It’s small retailers who lose and the big distillers who win. Small stores are less able to spread costs over another day of operation without increasing sales.

    Distillers push it because they might marginally increase sales, and if bigger stores win, the supplier’s costs go down.

    Colorado passed Sunday sales that started in 2009. Sales of wine and spirits are up since 2008; beer is flat; and there are 200 fewer 3.2 licensees and 105 fewer retail liquor stores.

    Consumers like it but this is one reason retailers don’t.

    • Is there such unique value in small liquor retailers that they should have a government-imposed barrier to competition? I don’t think so. The same arguments that apply to small liquor stores being open on Sunday could apply equally to retailers in any number of other industries.

      • My comment was to illustrate why the retailer organization is against it. It represents a real threat to some of its members. Another way to look at this is that by instituting Sunday sales the state will disturb a marketplace that has always been regulated and this competitive structure has been in place for about 70 years.

        There are unique values in small retailers of all types, and we have seen what happens when our states, cities and towns enact policies that favor larger and nationally owned companies.

        We can come down on either side of this question because it’s complex. But we also should recognize the consequences of our choices before we can’t browse in a local bookstore or we have to drive ten miles to find the favorite brew that used to be in our local liquor store.

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