HUDSON – Sheri Dawson and Barry Heikkila wanted to mix a few cocktails with their favorite brand of tequila so they checked online to see which liquor stores were selling it near their St. Paul, Minn., home.
Then they realized it was Sunday.
If they wanted to buy tequila, they would have to leave their home and travel across the border.
Which is how the Tucson, Ariz., natives ended up at Hudson Liquor over the lunch hour on Sunday, making their purchases and then getting back on Interstate 94 to cross the Mississippi River again.
“This is our last week of doing this,” said Heikkila as he paid for his tequila. “We were one of the ones from out of town who would forget that it was Sunday.”
Sunday was the final booze-soaked hurrah for Wisconsin liquor stores and taverns along the Minnesota border. Starting July 2, for the first time since Minnesota became a state 159 years ago, packaged liquor will be sold legally on Sundays in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The Minnesota Legislature voted overwhelmingly earlier this year to allow the sale of packaged liquor, beer and wine from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. The issue had come up annually for many years, but for a variety of reasons, it finally went through this year just in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
While imbibers in Minnesota, for the most part, seem to be happy about the change, it’s a different story for the many liquor stores, taverns and gas stations on the Wisconsin border that sell spirits, wine and beer to thirsty folks in vehicles sporting Minnesota plates.
“Why would someone drive all the way over here if they can drive two blocks to their local liquor store?” asked Michael Murphy, owner of Pudge’s Bar in Hudson.
Murphy could read the tea leaves and realized that the Sunday liquor sales legislation was likely to go through this year, so he added on to his business, remodeled and started a restaurant a few months ago to make up for what he anticipates will be lost revenue from Minnesota drinkers staying closer to home.
“We have a lot of liquor stores in town. I personally don’t know if they’ll all survive. Sunday business is the biggest day of the week for many of them,” Murphy said.
Hudson is the nearest Wisconsin community off the interstate from the Twin Cities, so it gets a lot of traffic, particularly on Sundays from customers who forget to stock up for parties or NFL-viewing gatherings the night before, from dehydrated boaters who know they can’t get beer on the Minnesota side and others who want alcohol for one reason or another.
Some think the Minnesota Legislature pushed the measure through this year because Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve — two big days for alcohol purchases — fall on Sundays, and because Minnesota is hosting the 2018 Super Bowl, also on a Sunday.
“It would have been nice if they’d waited a year,” said Chad Moe, owner of Hudson Liquor for the last decade. “We definitely get a lot of customers from Minnesota. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out.”
Minnesota state Sen. Susan Kent, whose district is right across the border from Hudson, voted in favor of repealing the Sunday liquor sales ban.
“I came in hearing from my community that this is stupid, we need to do this and move on. They know sales dollars and tax revenue is leaving our community and our state because they see it all the time,” Kent said in a phone interview last week.
Kent said the Sunday sales ban was a remnant of Prohibition-era limitations…