Excelsior liquor stores consider impact of Sunday sales

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill March 7 that repealed the 159-year old ban on Sunday liquor sales allowing stores to be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sun Sailor file photo)
Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill March 7 that repealed the 159-year old ban on Sunday liquor sales allowing stores to be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sun Sailor file photo)

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill March 7 that repealed the state’s 159-year old ban on Sunday liquor sales.

On Feb. 27, the Senate measure, which passed 38-28, was authored by Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. A companion House bill authored by Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, passed Feb. 20 with an 85-45 vote, and was reapproved March 2 to match the Senate version.

District 33 Senator David J. Osmek, R-Mound, supported the Sunday liquor sales along with House District 33B Representative Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen.

“My support of Sunday sales in Minnesota is based on letting businesses make decisions on their business models, not government,” Osmek said. “I also do not believe that we should impose, in Minnesota law, a state-statute mandated day off for one small segment of businesses.”

The lift on Sunday liquor sales will go into effect in July, allowing stores to open their doors Sundays between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Before the Sunday sales begin, Excelsior and other cities will need to change their ordinances. Excelsior City Manager Kristi Luger said she is unsure about the city council’s views on changing the ordinance at this time because it hasn’t been discussed. She said the council would vote on changing the ordinance before July.

The operators of Excelsior liquor stores have expressed both support and concern over Sunday liquor sales.

Greg Varner, the owner of Excelsior Vintage, has been against lifting the ban. He said it will increase his operating costs but not his revenue. Additional costs include paying for extra staff and increases in insurance, utilities and workers compensation costs.

“My revenues will stay the same but my overhead will increase by about $15,000, which is a lot of a small store,” Varner said. “We will have a low margin unlike the big box stores who can afford to stay open. Overall I think all the small stores will lose money because we’re open seven days a week.”

“You don’t have to be open Sundays but you do to be completive,” Varner said. “We don’t want to be open and my workers and I would prefer to be with our families, but we have to be competitive in a very competitive market.”

Total Wine & More spent $170,000 in 2014 and 2015 on lobbying to lift the ban, according to data from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Competition from stores of that caliber is worrisome to Varner.

Osmek said he disagrees that big box stores will affect businesses.

“A few years ago, an MGM store opened in Spring Park,” Osmek said. “For the Mound liquor store, a small impact was seen in our sales. Mound adjusted its labor model and is highly profitable today. The small liquor store in Navarre also has continued to operate.”

Varner also expressed concern that local sports bars will be negatively affected by Sunday liquor sales.

“I feel some of my friends who own sports bars,” he said. “Now with the Sunday liquor sales people may go to the big box liquor stores to purchase alcohol instead of going to your local sports bar.”

“I think its a horrible decision,” Excelsior Vintage customer Mark Bowers said. “It will negatively impact a lot of businesses and people will instead of paying twice as much at a bar they will go to liquor stores where its more cost effective.”

Haskell’s owner said he’s not concerned that their sports bar or liquor store will be effected by the Sunday liquor sales.

“A place like this will do very well on Sundays,” said Haskell’s owner Jack Farrell. “Whether downtown will do well has yet to be seen. We will follow the state regulations so we will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at all our locations.”

Farrell said that in his 40 years of business experience he hasn’t had a demand for Sunday liquor sales at any of his locations.

“My guess is it isn’t going to be any big boom for the state tax-wise because it will stretch out the sales from six days to seven days, like it’s been seen in other states,” he said. “I don’t see it being a big bonanza for us or the state revenue collectors, but it’s a nice thing to have Sunday sales.”

Haskell’s Chief Operating Officer Brian Farrell said that the Lake Minnetonka boating atmosphere might benefit business especially seasonally. “I think we will be a very busy little store on Sundays,” he said.

Haskell’s is planning to add additional workers on Sundays for their liquor store.

Wine Republic owner Patti Judalena said that they have chosen to open seasonally when there is a higher demand.

“We have the choice to work or not, but our neighbors are open and the summers are busy so we’re going to be open seasonally,” she said. “Were excited about it because everyone comes during the summer. Still Sunday liquor sales is unknown territory and we don’t know how it will go so we will adjust as time goes along.”

Kowalski’s Store Manager Max Maddaus said that the store would also adjust and evaluate how to handle Sunday liquor sales once it’s implemented.

“No one really knows what Sunday liquor sales are going to do and we have to add additional overhead on Sundays to cover the wine shop being open in addition to operating costs,” Maddaus said. “It’s kind of one of those unknown foreseeable things that impact us and we’re excited because hopefully it will help serve our customers a little better. If it makes our customers happy and they’re more pleased with their shopping experience and the products they want from us that are available, then we’re all for it.”

Maddaus added that it’s hard to determine if there is a demand for Sunday liquor sales.

“I think Minnesotans have been used to not having sales on Sundays so it will be interesting to see how much of the incremental sales that you’ll get versus a thinning of days sales,” he said.
Despite Excelsior’s crackdown on alcohol related incidents, South Lake Minnetonka Police Chief

Mike Meehan said he does not believe additional incidents will be caused by Sunday liquor sales. He added that no additional staff would be needed on Sundays due to the ban being lifted.

“I don’t anticipate any significant change in alcohol-related calls for service with Sunday off-sale liquor in Minnesota,” he said.

Officials from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol declined to comment if they were concerned that Sunday liquor sales would lead to an increase in boating while intoxicated incidents.
Minnesota was one of just 12 states not to allow Sunday liquor sales, and there have been few studies about the link between crime and similar repeals of Sunday bans.

One study conducted in Virginia by the Journal of Public Economics between 2004 and 2012 did corroborate a potential connection between a Sunday liquor law repeal in that state and a slight increase in both minor and serious crimes, the cost of which was found to be roughly equal to state revenue gained by the extra day of sales.

The same study also suggested that rates of intoxicated driving and domestic violence were unaffected by the change.

Either way, businesses, public safety and government officials have expressed that they will continue to reevaluate Sunday liquor sales as time goes on.

Contact Paige Kieffer at [email protected] Contributed by Laci Gagliano.