Bemidji's city-owned liquor stores won't open on Sundays

At least for now. Things could change.

When it becomes legal for Minnesota liquor stores to sell booze on Sundays in July, Bemidji's city-owned liquor stores won't be joining in – at least for now.

The city, which operates two liquor stores, decided Monday that because opening on Sundays won't increase their overall profits, they'll keep them closed. Each store would have to sell $800 worth of booze just to pay workers, the city found.

Plus, the only non-city owned liquor store in Bemidji isn't that interested in opening on Sundays if they don't have to, city documents show. Neither are liquor stores in some neighboring communities. So any pressure the city might have felt to open up is now off.

But being open on Sundays isn't completely off the table. City Attorney Alan Felix told GoMN Tuesday things can change come July, and if other establishments in the region decide to open, the city could reconsider.

If that happens, the Bemidji City Council won't have to change any city rules about Sunday sales, as it'll automatically become legal when the new state law takes affect. But officials will have to decide whether to open one or both stores, and the hours they'll be open.

“I don’t think the decision tonight is the end of the issue,” Finance Director Ron Eischens said, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. “It’s going to be monitored going forward and discussed with the council.”

According to documents presented to the city council, a recent survey of Minnesota's municipal liquor stores found 55 percent plan to open on Sundays, while 4 percent won't open. However, 41 percent were still undecided.

Many small, independent and city-owned liquor stores were against allowing Sunday sales because they were worried they'd be forced to open on Sundays to stay competitive – but wouldn't sell enough alcohol that day to make a profit.

Other cities approve Sunday sales

Unlike in Bemidji, there are cities in Minnesota where the ordinance bans Sunday off-sale liquor. A straight up ban like that actually won't be legal once the state law goes into effect. So those cities need to repeal the ban before July 1, and outline the hours liquor stores can operate, the League of Minnesota Cities says.

Each individual liquor store can then choose whether they want to open during those times.

St. Cloud was one of those cities that had to vote to change the city ordinance – which they did this week. St. Cloud Times reports the city council voted unanimously to allow liquor stores to sell booze from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays, the same as what the state law allows.

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