This is an open letter to all liquor store owners who stand in opposition of a full repeal of Sunday sales of alcohol in Minnesota. I’m writing this letter to set various facts straight, and to hopefully change some minds. I would ask that liquor store owners who are reading this keep an open-mind and understand that no one wants to see them fail. Change is never easy, but if we’re open to considering the facts, and imagining a different future, then we need to talk about upending the status quo. Success benefits us all – consumers and business owners alike.
First, there is the argument that if the Sunday sales ban is repealed, liquor stores will “need” to open on Sundays. Obviously this is false, as no one would ever mandate what hours a store owner must keep for their own business. The response given, is that a liquor store would need to open on Sunday in order to remain competitive, and not lose out on business. Yet, at the same time, owners have stated that there would not be enough business on Sunday to justify the operational expenses. So which one is it? If there isn’t enough business to cover operational expenses on a Sunday, then there’s no “need” to open.
Every retail and hospitality business has had to deal with the question, “What hours do I keep?” They do analysis of the market and determine the most profitable times to open their doors. If opening early, or staying open late doesn’t pay for itself, then a business does not keep those hours. Tens of thousands of businesses in Minnesota, across every industry, have made decisions about the best hours to open their doors, with a 7 day schedule in mind. Businesses should have the freedom to make that decision on its own merit, based on consumer demand, not on an antiquated law.
Second, the argument is made that opening on Sundays simply spreads out 6 days worth of sales into a 7th day. Studies have shown that this is not accurate. When other states, such as Colorado, have repealed their Sundays sales law, they found an increase of up to 5-7% in liquor taxes collected. This means that there is actually an untapped market on Sundays. Unlike some products, liquor can often be a spur-of-the-moment purchase. People often make leisure plans within the same day, and if they have an option, and desire, to make liquor a part of those plans, they will often exercise that option. I know for a fact that, personally, I have been invited to a same-day BBQ, or other gathering, on a Sunday evening and realized I don’t have a bottle of wine to bring, and have no way to acquire one. From a business perspective, this is lost sales. I’m probably not going to purchase that bottle of wine on Monday.
Additionally, there is no reason that a liquor store owner cannot adjust their entire weekly schedule to accommodate a 7-day business. There is nothing stopping a store owner from adjusting their weekly hours to maintain the same number of total ‘open hours’ in a given week, spread over one extra day. Or limiting Sunday hours to a few peak afternoon hours to accommodate the bulk of the impulse purchasing that may occur.
Finally, there is the fact that Minnesota is now one of only 12 states that does not allow Sunday sales, meaning that in the U.S., 38 states allow for sales on Sunday. Minnesota is surrounded by states that allow Sunday sales, a fact that directly impacts any liquor store owner within 45 minutes of a border. It also affects our hospitality industry, as brewpubs and taprooms can only sell on-premises on Sundays, meaning that visitors from in and out of town cannot purchase growlers to bring home; and that translates to more lost sales.
On a nation-wide level it also affects our reputation. I’ve heard from one colleague in particular, who at one point lived in Minnesota, say that he would never move back to our state, partly because of the Sunday sales law. He reasoned, that if our laws are so antiquated for a commodity like liquor sales, how much more would this be found true in other areas, further reducing the incentive to starting a business or a new life here in Minnesota.
Therefore, I ask liquor store owners around Minnesota to reconsider their opposition to Sunday sales – realizing that running a 7-day business is not alien territory, that there are many options for how to handle these additional hours. I also ask the store owners to think of the consumer demand, understanding the potential for lost revenue to both themselves, and the state tax coffers. Finally I ask that you consider the reputation of our state, long known as a progressive, forward-thinking beacon of the Midwest.