When last I checked, Prohibition was over
Imagine this scenario: It’s Sunday at noon. You’ve just finished church and now you’re sitting on a stool in your favorite watering hole with a few of the guys who invited you to come cheer the Vikings on to another four quarters of mediocrity.
The pitchers keep coming as each of the guys takes his turn buying a round. Before you realize what hit you, it’s after 3 p.m. and you’re watching Terry and Howie talk about how inept the Vikes’ offense is and how it will continue to be until they have a decent quarterback.
You pay your share of the tab, say so long to the guys, walk out to your car, start it up and head toward home amid all the other cars on the road, some likely carrying children.
Now imagine this scenario: You’re heading home after church and you pull into a liquor store because you’re going to stay home and watch the game and want to throw back a couple cold ones as you watch it in the comfort of your own living room.
What’s the difference? Well, in scenario one a drunk driver seems more likely. Obviously, moderation is key in both scenarios, but the point is that while a person can go to a bar in Minnesota on Sunday, that person can’t go to a liquor store to buy the same thing he would buy at a bar. Why the double standard? It makes no sense.
Minnesota is one of only 14 states that continue to prohibit Sunday liquor store sales.
Six short years ago that number was 27, but under legislation proposed by State Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Hibbing, Minnesota would join the growing list of states that allow the guy in scenario two to get his brewskies for the game on his way home from church.
On top of that, under Anzelc’s plan, the estimated $10 million in tax revenue from Sunday sales would be dedicated to the funding of county children’s social services, programs that are currently threatened with cuts as lawmakers try to balance a $5 billion state deficit.
Now we’re starting to make some sense.
So how can such a conservative law continue to exist in the state that has made it very probable that for the next six years a door at the U.S. Capitol is actually going to have a name plate with the words "Senator Al Franken" on it?
It’s because this "blue law," which is a law designed to enforce religious standards, dates back to
Prohibition and has become as outdated as flapper dresses, saddle shoes and Tommy guns.
Most blue laws have been repealed, declared unconstitutional or simply aren’t enforced, yet somehow this one lingers on. The fact that bars can be open on Sundays in Minnesota demonstrates that it’s time to pull the plug.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, one group that might be expected to raise some legitimate concerns about Sunday liquor sales, isn’t concerned about this proposal. Minnesota chapter policy advisor Lynne Goughler was quoted in another publication as saying "MADD doesn’t get involved with what the hours for liquor are... our concern is that people aren’t drinking and driving."
I couldn’t agree more, so now I’ll get to my more selfish reasons for wanting this law abolished. My wife and I like wine, and there are occasions when we would like to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner on Sunday, but we can’t simply because we didn’t buy any on Saturday.
Opponents of this ban might tell me that if I didn’t buy it Saturday, I’m out of luck. My answer to that would be, "Don’t a lot of people attend church on Saturday, too?"
The truth is this law simply doesn’t make sense anymore, and the reason has nothing to do with the day of the week. It has to do with keeping people from crossing borders on Sundays to spend their money on something they should be able to get here.
Incidentally Sen. Sparks, Rep. Anzelc is looking for a sponsor in the state Senate.
Jeff Reinartz — no teetotaler, he — grew up in Austin and is a long-time resident. His column appears weekly.