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Sunday liquor sales will impact Grand Forks, Minnesota

Ryan Swanberg waits forcustomers on Tuesday, Jan 13, 2015, at Pop's Liquor in East Grand Forks, Minn. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Liquor stores in Grand Forks and Minnesota are expecting impacts from a change in liquor laws that the Minnesota Legislature is on the edge of passing.

The Senate voted Monday in favor of repealing 159-year-old law prohibiting off-sale alcohol sales on Sunday.

The House passed a similar bill earlier this month. The bills differ on times they allow sales to start on Sunday.

If the two bills can be reconciled, Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill.

The change in law could have an impact on Sunday liquor sales in Grand Forks, since many customers cross the river on Sunday to North Dakota, which has no such prohibition.

But not all store owners think it will be noticeable.

"We don't think this will have an appreciable impact on our sales," said Hal Gershman, owner of Happy Harry's Bottle Shops.

He said they've been anticipating the repeal for some time, and he's not entirely sure what volume of Sunday sales are from customers from Minnesota.

Tom Montgomery, manager of Rite Spot, said it could have an impact on Sunday sales at the store's two locations in Grand Forks.

"Sundays are pretty steady for us," he said.

Like Gershman he said they don't have any way to track how many customers come from Minnesota.

"I'm sure we get some," Montgomery said.

The greater impacts are to Minnesota liquor stores.

Dave Thompson, owner of the Captain Crooks Bottle Shop, said his competitors were most likely going to start selling alcohol on Sunday, and he'll have to compete.

"We really don't want to, but we'll be forced to," Thompson said.

And it's not an easy change for his business to adapt to.

"We're a small business, and we have a hard time staffing as it is," he said.

He's owned the business for 11 years.

Crookston's liquor stores are all private, but many communities throughout Minnesota have city-run stores.

Steve Olson manages Falls Liquor, the municipal liquor store in Thief River Falls. If the law is passed, it won't go into effect until July.

He said they saw this day coming.

"We knew it was a matter of when and not if," Olson said.

He said he wasn't sure what changes they'll make in response to the repeal, but he said it's unlikely they'll start selling on Sunday, at least not initially.

"I don't see us jumping on it right away," he said.

He said he'd have to confer with the city council and "see what happens" when the law goes into effect.

The extra day is going to increase the business's operating costs, and Olson said he isn't sure it would be worth it. If there's a large enough demand, the city might consider it.

"We want to make sure we take care of our customers," Olson said.

Opponents of the bills argued the repeal would harm the publically owned liquor stores in the state.

Opponents said the extra day would increase costs but probably not increase sales.

Olson expressed gratitude towards the legislators in his district that voted against the repeal, Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, and Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks.

"I appreciate them standing up for us," he said.