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Local liquor stores react to Minnesota's new Sunday liquor law

House of Wines is just one of Hastings' liquor stores that plans to open for Sunday sales this year. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)

Hastings residents will soon have the opportunity to purchase alcohol before a Sunday football game instead of making a beer run across the border to Prescott, Wis. Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill March 7 that repeals Minnesota's 159-year-old ban on the state's liquor stores operating on Sundays. Minnesota liquor stores will be able to start operating on Sundays beginning July 2, 2017.

Local liquor stores are ready to take on the additional day of sales, but their reactions to the changes vary.

"I can see it starting out really well, but after a while I don't see it as a big deal that people will be excited about anymore," said Tammy Brouillard, manager at MGM Liquor Warehouse.

As a manager, Brouillard said that she will be tasked with adding another work shift to the weekend, which would add an operating cost on Sundays. She said that she doesn't think adding another day of sales will be that much more profitable

Richard Jacobson, owner of Jake's Discount Liquor, said that he is also concerned about whether he can cover his operating costs on Sundays, but he is glad he isn't a liquor store in Prescott at the moment.

"I'm kind of excited about it because I live in Prescott and I see a lot of Minnesota traffic in downtown," he said.

Jacobson said that he thinks the Hastings stores will take business away from Prescott now that locals will be able to purchase in town on Sundays. However, time will tell whether or not it will be good for business or bad for business, he said.

Ed Robinson, owner of House of Wines, said that the Sunday liquor sales will be convenient for the customers, but it might end up costing store owners money.

"For the stores along the border, there will be a slight increase (to business), only slight because most people buy Friday and Saturday for Sunday," Robinson said.

There might be a little boost in profits at first, but then Robinson said he expects everything to sort of smooth out and be the same. The only difference would be that he would be paying for electricity, employees and other operating costs on Sundays.

With Sunday liquor sales coming to Minnesota, it could have a ripple effect on some of the liquor stores near the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Casanova Liquors may be nestled in the bluffs on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River, but owner Tyrrel Gaffer said most of the customers stopping by the store on a Sunday are from across the water.

"Sundays are one of our busier days of the week and a majority of our customers are from Minnesota," he said.

That could all change this summer now that Minnesota legislators have approved a bill repealing the law that banned Sunday liquor sales in the state and sent Minnesotans to stores in neighboring Wisconsin towns like Prescott or Hudson.

Both Gaffer and Spirit Seller Liquors owner John Kromer said the new legislation will have an effect on their business.

"There won't be as much Minnesota traffic over here," Kromer said. Casanova will likely cut down the staff it has on Sundays, Gaffer said, and the day will no longer be the store's busiest.

"Our Sundays will slow down a bit," he said.

Still, Gaffer said the store will continue to see traffic from local customers and from Minnesotans looking for brands that they can't find at home like New Glarus, Ale Asylum and Pitchfork. "Sunday will not be our top day of the week anymore but will still be a great day to sell craft beer and specialty wine," Gaffer said.

Kromer said those specialty items that Minnesota can't sell will still bring customers across the border, as will lower prices and a lower sales tax.

"So those people will still come over for that," Kromer said. "There's going to be a drop-off, but it's going to be hard to say how much."

Hudson and Prescott stores are also open longer than Minnesota stores will be on Sundays, with Casanova open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Spirit operating from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Under the new Minnesota law, liquor stores can operate from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday; however, municipalities are able to restrict Sunday sales in their communities. Melanie Mesko Lee, city administrator, said that the Sunday liquor sales issue has not been brought to the city council yet, but it is expected to be brought forward. When it becomes a topic for administrative committee, an announcement will be made at a City Council meeting.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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