Thomas Liquors has sold wine, beer and spirits on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue for more than six decades, but next week brings a historic first when the family business somewhat reluctantly opens its doors to customers on Sunday.
On July 2, Minnesota will drop its more than century-old prohibition on Sunday liquor sales, and the small, brick-walled shop in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood won’t be alone in opening for a seventh day. Though some stores plan to keep the old tradition and remain closed, hundreds of corporate, independent and municipal liquor retailers across the state are stocking up, rescheduling employees — and hoping shoppers make it all worthwhile.
“People have said: ‘Well, you don’t have to be open,’ ” said Mike Thomas, the store’s third-generation owner, who opposed the change when it was under consideration at the State Capitol. “Well, you really do, if you’re any kind of businessman at all.”
Many liquor retailers share Thomas’ mixed feelings about Sunday hours. But after the Legislature approved the change and Gov. Mark Dayton signed it in March, Thomas said it was clear his business had to adapt to changing times.
Under the new law, liquor retailers can open their doors from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays — still a shorter window than the rest of the week. Nothing is forcing store owners to open on Sundays, and individual cities have the option of voting to limit those hours even further or maintain the prohibition on Sunday sales.
“We all need a day off,” said Brian Nelson, who decided his Hibbing liquor store, the Bottle Shop, would remain closed on Sundays. Nelson said he figures customers are used to stocking up for the weekend on Saturdays and that a few extra sales wouldn’t be worth the change.
Minnesota’s policy shift on the issue was significant after decades of upholding so-called “blue laws” that banned alcohol and automobile sales on Sundays. Failed efforts to overturn the liquor law were frequent at the Capitol in recent years, but this year a crop of new lawmakers more open to the change — along with growing pressure from major liquor retailers — was enough to finally overcome entrenched opposition.
Some smaller store owners like Charlie Capesius, of Riverside Liquors in Shakopee, feared the shift would hurt their shops and boost big-box retailers. But as July 2 crept closer, they mostly shrugged and began plotting a seven-day-a-week schedule with employees.
“I know I’m going to do better — it’s just another day of sales,” Capesius said. “It’s just the headache.”
Some of Minnesota’s more than 240 city-owned liquor stores, particularly those…