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Mpls. rejects deal with liquor store that jumped the gun on Sunday sales

A city council committee says an agreement worked out with Surdyk's Liquor last week is not a harsh enough punishment.

It's back to the drawing board as Minneapolis considers how to punish a liquor store that opened for business on a Sunday – a few months before that becomes legal.

A week after city staffers reached a settlement with Surdyk's Liquor, it was rejected Tuesday by a city council committee whose members want a stiffer penalty.

What happened

Minnesota's had a law prohibiting liquor stores from opening on Sunday as long as anyone can remember. Efforts to repeal it came up dry for years, until this spring.

As soon as Gov. Mark Dayton signed the new law getting rid of the Sunday sales ban, Jim Surdyk celebrated by opening his northeast Minneapolis liquor store on Sunday, March 12. One problem: the new law doesn't kick in until July 1, so it was still illegal for the store to be open.

City Hall was not happy with Surdyk's decision and initially said his punishment would be to have the store's liquor license suspended for 30 days – basically the month of July – plus a $2,000 fine. A plea bargain of sorts was reached last week, though, when city staff and Surdyk reached a deal that increased the fine to $6,000 but reduced the days the store must be closed to 10 – nine Sundays and one Saturday.

The deal's rejection

It was the city council's Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee that turned down the settlement Tuesday, giving staff members a month to come up with a new penalty.

The Star Tribune says there was not much discussion at the meeting. His lawyer told the committee that Surdyk "made a horrible decision" in the heat of the moment, the newspaper reports, while council member Lisa Goodman said she was troubled by Surdyk's refusal to close the store even after city and state officials asked him to do so on March 12.

Surdyk, whose grandfather opened the store in 1934, has his supporters. One Facebook message shared on the liquor store's page thanks the owner for standing up to "our oppressive government" that banned Sunday sales in the first place. Others say the city's punishment of Surdyk's is too harsh.

But public comments released by the city council show there's also plenty of anger at Surdyk for flaunting the law. One came from an employee who said she was quitting her job at Surdyk's over the owner's stunt. "I would never ever get used to working for someone who thinks they are above the law," Kari Johnson wrote, adding "What is next? What other laws or regulations might you consider beneath you?"

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