Bottom’s up, or bottoming out? Sunday liquor sales loom in Brooklyn Center

With Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota now set to commence after 16 decades of restriction, proprietors of local liquor stores are weighing the pros and cons of such a long-awaited decision.

Beginning in early July, liquor stores will begin selling their wares on Sunday after a House and Senate-approved bill was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton March 7, repealing a 159-year-long ban on Sunday sales that has had its share of detractors and opponents throughout the years. Opponents of the ban have balked at perceived government interference of local businesses’ rights to sell alcohol on a certain day of the week.

However, some have expressed concern that a repeal on the Sunday ban would place undue increases on business owners’ operating costs by opening on Sundays, as well as fears regarding the competition between small liquor stores and big box chains now emboldened to sell liquor. Brooklyn Center’s two municipal liquor stores could well face this quandary, as operations manager Tom Agnes points out.

“I think we all kind of knew it was eventually going to happen,” said Agnes. “It sounded like the difference was that piece in the bill about no deliveries on Sundays satisfied some of the Teamster vote. If the question is “Why this year?,” that would be the main reason. Also, I’ve heard that there was going to be a very big push to get Sunday sales open before the Super Bowl came here. This would have been the year to do it.”

Agnes oversees operations for the city’s two off-sale liquor stores, BC Liquor, located at 6930 Brooklyn Blvd. and 5625A Xerxes Ave. Like many other liquor stores across the state, the primary concern for Agnes is the potential to lose business.

“We were worried that it was just going to rob sales from other days, mainly Saturday, and we were going to have added expenses on Sunday,” said Agnes. “We were concerned about adding those expenses and not getting any sales from it. Hopefully we’re wrong and that won’t be the case, but we’ll see where that goes.”

The added operating costs would come from adding staff on Sundays, but the concern about big box stores potentially monopolizing business in the area looms large.

“I don’t ever want to give my customers any reason to go to another store,” said Agnes. “If we were not open on Sundays, that would be a reason for them to go to one of those big box stores. We all pretty much know that the big box stores are going to be open. We have some competitors up in Brooklyn Park and north Minneapolis that I’m pretty sure will be open.”

Additionally, Agnes noted that if BC Liquor does indeed gain sales on Sundays, it could possibly take away 3.2 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) sales from gas stations and grocery stores, which would incite greater competition from those businesses.

“In other states where that has happened, they’ve come back the following year asking for strong beer and wine,” said Agnes. “That was one of our big concerns as to having that increase competition in the future.”

Under the new law, Sunday liquor deliveries are not allowed, but municipalities such as Brooklyn Center can decide to restrict Sunday sales if they so desire.

“We’ve submitted a letter to the council suggesting that we be open on Sunday, so we’re going to get their input on it and go from there,” said Agnes. “But as of right now, we are planning on being open on Sundays.”

Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]