By Adam Quandt and Nicole Brodzik
Minnesotans haven’t been able to purchase off-sale liquor on Sundays for as long as the state’s history goes back. That changed on July 2.
July 2 marked the first day liquors stores had the ability or choice to be open to consumers on Sundays in Minnesota.
The choice was given to cities and then stores following the bill being signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on March 7.
Following the governor’s signing, the decision to allow Sunday liquor sales was passed to individual city councils.
The bill allows liquor stores to sell alcohol between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., however cities and stores were allowed to choose more restrictive hours within that time frame if they wished to do so.
Mound’s Harbor Wine and Spirits was one of those who chose to open their doors last Sunday. Manager John Colotti said he had a line of 30 people waiting for the doors to open that morning.
“We’re really optimistic,” Colotti said. “It’s been terrific so far. The game plan is to give it several months to figure out how sales are going and then make adjustments next year.”
Prior to the first Sunday of sales, Bryan Keeler and his staff at Lakeside Wine & Spirits in Long Lake were gearing up for the historical day in Minnesota.
“It’s an opportunity, that’s for sure,” Keeler said. “Who knows what might happen.”
Keeler, like many other owners of smaller, family-owned liquor stores shared concerns that the new law is better handled by large chains than smaller stores.
“The liquor business is getting more and more competitive,” Keeler said. “And sometimes it’s just the owners who are already working six days a week. Now that will be a full seven.” Keeler added that he will be one of those people working a full seven days at the beginning.
Keeler said that in his opinion, the passing of the bill was more geared towards the larger chain stores, without taking small family-owned stores into account.
“Small businesses have a bigger challenge in this. The labor pool is kind of challenging right now,” Keeler said. “They [bigger stores] can more easily just put more people on staff on Sundays.”
“In terms of staffing, a lot of liquor stores are having a hard time,” Mark Tetreault of Legacy Wine and Spirits in Waconia said. “It’s difficult to find people period.”
Following the passing of the bill, both Keeler and Tetreault looked through their numbers and worked out some projections as to what Sunday liquor sales might do for their business.
“We looked at the numbers and sadly didn’t really see an increase in sales projected,” Keeler said. “It just spread out our costs and expenses, just to not get much more profit.”
Keeler then did more research into other smaller liquor stores and their Sunday sales in other states, only to meet the same results.
“It’s bittersweet to know that, especially as a small business,” Keeler said.
Despite their less-than-positive projections, Keeler remained positive about the changes.
“We’re going to try it, see what happens and go from there,” Keeler said. “We’re changing a few things around and how we do things.”
He said that his store will be running a “Super Sunday” sale through the month of July and other various Sunday sales in August to attempt to get people in the store on Sundays.
“It could be a great opportunity for us,” Keeler said prior to the first Sunday of sales.
“It’s a new thing and something we will just have to adjust to,” Tetreault added.
Colotti at Harbor Wine and Spirits said he expects Sundays to be a hit for business in Westonka, especially in the summer for lake goers.
“We’re really expecting the same trends we see for any other day of the year,” he said. “It’ll likely be slower in the winter and busier in the summer. We’re excited to see how it goes.”
All there liquor stores will also be open on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. as they attempt to feel out what sales and customer traffic.