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Twenty-four of Minnesota's municipal liquor stores face an uncertain future after a second recent year of losses.

The Office of the State Auditor released its annual review of the state's 213 municipal liquor stores Thursday morning, detailing sales and profits from 2020. 

The big picture? Municipal liquor operations marked a 25th straight year of record sales, this time reaching $410.6 million during a pandemic-dominated 2020. (That was $38.5 million more than in 2019.)

But the reality was more complicated.

Off-sale municipal liquor stores had a banner year, with net profits hitting $32.9 million. That figure is $8.6 million (35.2%) higher than in 2019.

On-sale municipal locations generally struggled. Net profits hit $3.1 million in 2020 — a decrease of 11.7% from the year prior.

“While the overall picture is better than expected, many stores faced significant challenges," said State Auditor Julie Blaha in a news release. "Not surprisingly, stores that relied on sit-down customers had a harder time making a profit."

In-person services were severely hampered from March onward due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn led to a spring lockdown on indoor dining, which was briefly resurrected in late November through most of December.

A total of 37 cities reported losses at municipal liquor stores in 2020. All but two were on-sale sites.

Related: Grocery store beer sales? MN House hears nearly 30 proposals to update liquor laws

For 24 cities, it was the second time in the past three years their municipal liquor stores were in the red. This triggers a state law, requiring those cities to hold a public hearing about the future of those liquor stores. This meeting has to happen on or after Nov. 17, 2021.

This means city officials could ultimately choose to shutter those sites, though it is far from a guarantee. The state auditor's report notes that 20 of those 24 cities had to hold this type of hearing last year and are still in operation.

Here are the 24 cities in question:

  • Ada 
  • Big Falls 
  • Boyd 
  • Buffalo Lake 
  • Butterfield
  • Clarissa
  • Elmore 
  • Frazee 
  • Hanley Falls 
  • Ivanhoe 
  • Kiester 
  • Littlefork
  • Mahnomen 
  • Ogilvie 
  • Okabena 
  • Palisade 
  • Remer
  • Russell
  • Sacred Heart 
  • Sherburn 
  • Walnut Grove 
  • Wells 
  • West Concord 
  • Wolf Lake

The number of municipal liquor stores in  operation throughout the state has been slowly dropping over the past decade. There were 240 in 2011, the report says. There are now 213 locations across 179 Minnesota cities.

You can read the full report here.

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