Minnesota Repeals ‘Blue Law’

Published May 1, 2017

Minnesotans will soon be toasting a new law, thanks to the repeal of 158-year-old legislation preventing liquor stores from operating on Sundays.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signed into law in March House File 30, a bill proposed by state Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie). Starting on July 2, the state government’s ban on selling alcohol on Sunday, initially enacted in 1857, will end.

Once the repeal takes effect, only 11 states will still have blue laws, restrictions on when consumers may legally purchase liquor and wine.

Church and State

Michelle Minton, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says blue laws are an example of lawmakers using regulations to force their personal preferences on everybody.

The question of alcohol and morality has been settled,” Minton said. “Most states have done away with blue laws, recognizing that alcohol legislation is best considered on behalf of what is best for public health. Blue laws, on the other hand, were instituted on the basis of religion, something that is neither proper for a state to do nor in the best interest of consumers. Furthermore, maintaining the Sunday ban on alcohol for reasons of morality is hypocritical, because Minnesotans can engage in other morally questionable behaviors that day, like purchasing lottery tickets.”

Open for Business

Minton says business owners, not lawmakers, should set operating hours.

“It’s possible that operating on a Sunday might not be financially beneficial to a liquor store, in which case they are free to voluntarily shut their doors on that day of the week,” said Minton. “On the other hand, it’s inappropriate for Minnesota legislators to protect such liquor stores from their competitors who would gladly serve consumers on Sundays.”

Convenience for Consumers

Peter Nelson, vice president and senior policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, says the new law will benefit all consumers, even teetotalers.

“The upside for consumers will, of course, be convenience,” Nelson said. “But there’s also an upside for Minnesota’s border communities. My research shows employment growth is slower in counties on the Minnesota side of the border, which is at least partly due to the state’s more burdensome taxes and regulations. This helps, though only in a small way, even things out.