Convenience at what cost? Sunday liquor sales on the horizon, what implications could this mean for local liquor stores

Some residents are rejoicing about the recent passage of Sunday liquor sales through the state legislature, but this could be reason for small mom-and-pop and municipal liquor stores to be concerned.

Sunday liquor sales could mean loss in profits for small and municipal liquor stores in Minnesota. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)
Sunday liquor sales could mean loss in profits for small and municipal liquor stores in Minnesota. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)

The Senate voted Feb. 27 to undo the Sunday sales ban with a vote of 38-28. Although there are still more steps in the legislative process, this vote was seen as the biggest obstacle in the way of allowing liquor sales on Sundays. If minor differences of the companion bills are ironed out and Gov. Mark Dayton approves, Minnesota will legalize Sunday liquor sales on July 1, 2017.

Columbia Heights has three municipal liquor stores, all of which use the profits generated toward needs within the city. The stores include Top Valu Liquor, located at Central and 50th, Top Valu Liquor II, at 37th and Hart, and Heights Liquor, at University and 52nd.

“In states that have had this law change, there’s been a pretty clear record,” Columbia Heights Finance Director Joe Kloiber said. “It increases operating costs for the stores but it doesn’t significantly increase sales, so generally, the stores become less profitable.”

Kloiber currently manages liquor operations in Columbia Heights, as the past liquor operations manager retired in January.

“In our operation, if we didn’t make any other cuts to hours, it could be an additional $100,000 in staff time for eight hours a week for 52 weeks,” Kloiber said.

“Initially when the law would change, there will be a lot of publicity and excitement about it, so it would make sense to be open for the full eight hours,” he said.

Top Valu Liquor, located on Central and 50th Avenue, is the largest of the three liquor stores in Columbia Heights. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)
Top Valu Liquor, located on Central and 50th Avenue, is the largest of the three liquor stores in Columbia Heights. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)

However, Kloiber predicted that there will be a reduction in hours once the novelty wears off, and an analysis will be done to limit the impact of Sunday sales.
The loss in profitability could also mean more in property taxes for the residents of Columbia Heights.

“If you were to boil it down to the effect on the average homeowner of Columbia Heights, it’s probably the equivalent of $8 more in property taxes a year for the ability to shop for alcohol eight more hours a week,” Kloiber said.

“In the long run, Sundays could be one of our busiest days,” Columbia Heights assistant liquor operations manager Steve Olson said. “But all it’s going to do is make Saturday slower.”

Olson said that he believes that the main Heights stores are large enough to survive and absorb the costs, but his concerns lie on the smaller mom-and-pop stores that will suffer because of this change.

Assistant liquor operations manager Tim Gouras said that legalizing Sunday liquor sales is a major stepping stone for grocery stores.

“This will be major because [grocery stores] couldn’t shut down their aisles for just one day,” Gouras said. “Now the next push will be to get the wine and liquor in grocery stores.”

Fridley Liquor, located in the Fridley Market at University Avenue and I-694, is excited for the new change that may come in July. Located near Cub Foods, Duluth Trading Co and Tepanyaki Grill, Sunday liquor sales would add convenience for residents who do their shopping on Sundays. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)
Fridley Liquor, located in the Fridley Market at University Avenue and I-694, is excited for the new change that may come in July. Located near Cub Foods, Duluth Trading Co and Tepanyaki Grill, Sunday liquor sales would add convenience for residents who do their shopping on Sundays. (Sun Focus photo by Sarah Burghardt)

Gouras said he understands why cities on the border would want this legislation passed, but he doesn’t see any positive impact for the stores in Heights.

“It’s nothing that we wanted, but they’ve been pushing for this for years, so we kind of knew it was coming,” Gouras said.

The impact was personal for full-time supervisor Tracy Klein.

“Everyone else has their Saturdays and Sundays off and it’s throwing us from six to seven days a week,” Klein said. She said that Sundays have been a day that her children and grandchildren can depend on for family time, which may now be taken out of the equation.

“This will cut into family time and that is important. I can be replaced by my employer when I am gone, but my family is going to feel it more so,” Klein said.

Fridley has two liquor stores, one located in the Fridley Market at University Avenue and I-694 and another on Moore Lake Drive, east of Central Avenue.

Fridley Liquor Operations Manager Kyle Birkholz said he expects a lot of activity at the Fridley Market location.

Since the Fridley Market is home to popular stores like Cub Foods, Tepanyaki Grill and Duluth Trading Company, Birkholz said he thinks that opening the store will bring in Sunday shoppers. He said the liquor store will likely open at 11 a.m. to match up with the other stores in the area. However, he said he does not expect

Fridley Liquors’ smaller location to be open on Sundays, since it would not get as much business.

Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]