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OUR OPINION: Break the bottleneck on Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota

A majority of Minnesotans want the state’s laws banning Sunday sales by liquor stores to be reformed.

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will sign such a reform.

And on Tuesday, the Minnesota Senate voted overwhelmingly to amend a liquor bill to allow a tiny reform.

So, the stage is set for that bill to advance to the Minnesota House and, ultimately, to the governor for his signature. Right?


Because as soon as it became clear that the tiny amendment could become law, the bill’s sponsor got the entire bill pulled from consideration.

In other words, the will of the Senate majority — which had just approved the amendment — meant nothing. The will of the people meant nothing.

As long as it carves out even the smallest exception to the Sunday liquor-sale ban, then this bill and its amendment must not pass, the anti-reform minority had resolved. And with the tabling of the liquor bill on Tuesday, they got their wish.

For now.

But there’s still time for Minnesotans to protest this blatant elevation of political self-interest over the public’s interest. The Senate should take the amended bill off the table and let it advance to the House.

That’s what a majority of Minnesotans wants. That’s what a majority of Minnesota senators wants.

That’s what the Senate leadership and the bill’s sponsors should allow.

As mentioned, the amendment would allow only a very modest reform. An effort earlier on Tuesday to entirely repeal the ban on Sunday liquor-store sales failed by a big margin.

“But then, on a similarly lopsided vote, senators decided to poke a hole in the ban large enough for brewers to sell 64-ounce beer-filled glass growlers on Sundays,” the Star Tribune reported.

“That amendment caused DFL Sen. Jim Metzen, the sponsor of the liquor bill, to pull his bill from consideration. His move freezes debate on the issue for now.”

By the way, the underlying liquor bill is something of a “must pass,” at least in the eyes of tourism officials and the Minnesota sports industry. For the bill would let Minnesota bars stay open until 4 a.m. during July’s Major League Baseball All Star Game, which will be held at Target Field.

And the bill also “expands sales at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium, which for the next two years hosts the Gophers and the Vikings,” reported.

Those are pretty big changes to quash out of fear of the Sunday sale of growlers. What is it about this issue that makes senators quake?

In a word: Teamsters. Here’s MinnPost again:

Democrats, “with a few exceptions, act like Teamsters union puppets when this issue comes up,” MinnPost’s news story declared.

For their part, “the Teamsters worry growler sales will re-open contracts with other liquor establishments.

“Though union officials did not return requests for comment Tuesday, they annually tag team with the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association — heavily influenced by little Main Street liquor stores — to block Sunday sales.”

The debate on the bill may be frozen for now, but by contacting their lawmakers, Minnesota voters can thaw things out pretty quick. Senators should be pressed to make a big statement for majority rule by letting the liquor bill with its tiny amendment move to the House.