ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Liquor store managers, owners weigh in on Sunday sales

Area liquor store owners and managers shared their thoughts on being allowed to be open on Sundays for the first time in the state's history, with some on both sides of the "bar."...

Travis Grimler/Echo Journal Kim Johnson of Ultimate Liquors in Pine River is one of many liquor store owners who doesn't anticipate a significant increase in business due to Sunday liquor sales.
Travis Grimler/Echo Journal Kim Johnson of Ultimate Liquors in Pine River is one of many liquor store owners who doesn't anticipate a significant increase in business due to Sunday liquor sales.

Area liquor store owners and managers shared their thoughts on being allowed to be open on Sundays for the first time in the state's history, with some on both sides of the "bar."

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill Monday, Feb. 27, on a 38-28 vote to allow off-sale liquor stores to be open between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays as soon as July. The House bill to allow Sunday off-sale liquor sales to begin at 10 a.m. passed 85-45 Feb. 20.

The opening time must be established. Minnesota has never allowed liquor stores to be open Sundays.

"I think it's a great idea. For us, it's not a big deal because we're open anyway," said Greg Larson, manager of the Oasis complex on Highway 371 in Pequot Lakes, which includes the adjoining SuperAmerica and Oasis Liquor stores. "We're glad to see it."

Larson said people already work Sundays ordering and stocking shelves at Oasis Liquor.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It wouldn't affect us at all but would be better customer service for us in the busy season," he said, noting visitors who buy kegs for family reunions want to return those kegs Sundays when they leave town.

"We run into that problem every week in summer," he said.

Others have a different opinion. Drew Seeker, owner of Barstock Liquors in Crosslake and Crosby; Kim Johnson, owner of Ultimate Liquors in Pine River; and Terry Wallin, manager of the Pickle Factory in Nisswa, a municipal bar that has an off-sale liquor store, all said they don't think being open on Sundays will increase sales.

"What it'll do is just basically make your weekend softer," Seeker said. "It's just going to spread it out through seven days instead of six days. So what'll it'll do is it'll drive my overhead up for sure because I'm going to have to hire more employees."

Though the Pickle Factory is open Sundays already so it wouldn't be a problem to open the adjacent off-sale store as well, Wallin said of off-sale: "Everyone thinks we're going to make a ton of money on Sundays, and we're not."

Johnson added that her discussions with customers haven't revealed any real demand for Sunday sales either.

"People here are pretty used to it being closed," Johnson said. "I haven't had any customers that are just strongly for it."

Wallin said smaller, mom-and-pop stores that have a hard time already making payroll will be hurt. Toni Buchite, manager of the municipal 50 Lakes Bar and Bottle Shop, agreed.

ADVERTISEMENT

"For a majority of the mom-and-pop, small off-sales and some of the municipals that don't have bars or are not open on Sundays, I think it's truly going to affect their bottom line," she said.

But her business opinion differs from her personal standpoint. Like the Pickle Factory, the 50 Lakes Bar is already open on Sundays.

"Our bar is open. And one person can run both of them," Buchite said. "So if it does pass, for the municipal here in Fifty Lakes, it'll be just an added bonus. Maybe we'll pick up some extra sales."

Bob Miller, liquor manager at Moonlite Square in Crosslake, also remains hopeful that an extra day of business will mean extra sales.

As another vote against the measure, Scott Kackman, of Northland Liquors in Jenkins, said Sunday liquor sales brings smaller business owners a step closer to losing customers to corporate competition.

Though the current proposal is to allow Sunday sales in off-sale liquor stores, Kackman said in all other states where this law has passed, the sale of liquor has later opened up to grocers, convenience stores and big box stores as well.

"We can't compete with people who have budgets like that," Kackman said. "I'm afraid if this does go through, my neighbor next to me will be able to buy a lot more beer than I can and sell it cheaper. Because beer is 60 percent of my income ... that would be enough to put us out of business."

Increased costs aren't the only issue at hand either - at least not for Seeker, who said he enjoys having Sundays for family time. He also thinks Minnesota has bigger issues that need attention.

ADVERTISEMENT

"If they really want to get something done, let's look at health care, let's look at our roads or bridges," Seeker said. "Let's focus on problems that we have. This is not a problem."

On the other side, speaking in favor of Sunday sales, Larson added that he thinks it will "be better for Minnesota if people don't have to stockpile liquor for two days" by buying what they think will be enough for both Saturday and Sunday.

Wallin countered that the state hasn't allowed Sunday off-sale liquor sales for more than 150 years. Plenty of bars are already open for people to have a drink, he said.

Although the legislation wouldn't require liquor stores to be open on Sundays, Miller said those who want to stay in the market will have to play along.

"For a level playing field - in especially small areas like ours - if one (store) decides to stay open, my assumption is that we'd all be open that day," Miller said. "You pretty much have to follow suit."

Related Topics: CROSSLAKEFIFTY LAKES
What To Read Next
Who are the people being held in custody in Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties?
"Hockey" is Pine River-Backus Elementary School's theme for the annual celebration of reading so the school teamed up with the boys high school hockey team
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Inmates in-custody in the Mille Lacs County jail in Milaca, Minnesota