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Customers flock to Minnesota liquor stores as new Sunday sales law takes effect

Erik Thrawl of Eagan, Minn. purchases Lime-A-Ritas and Palm Breeze for his wife from Raeann Carlson Sunday at the Sunset Bottle Shoppe in Rice Lake. Sunday was the first day of Sunday liquor sales in the state of Minnesota. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Christa Lawler

Duluth News Tribune

Before he headed out on a chub-minnow run on Sunday, Erik Thrawl asked his Island Lake-mates if they wanted anything else. The answer: affirmative.

"The wives wanted margarita mixes and Palm Breezes," said Thrawl, who was visiting from Eagan, Minn.

And for the first time in state history, this request was doable.

The ban on Sunday off-sale liquor sales in Minnesota ended this weekend — though not yet in Duluth — which meant a steady stream of customers, including Thrawl, at liquor stores like the Sunset Bottle Shop in Rice Lake.

"It's been a pain in the butt," Thrawl said, of stocking up on Saturdays or covering a holiday weekend. This had occasionally sent him on a run to Wisconsin, where Sunday sales have been legal for more than a century.

According to the new law, liquor stores can be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. — which is shorter than weekday hours.

There were Fourth of July-themed balloons outside the bottle shop on Martin Road, with the word "open" penned on the silver stars. Inside the store — which serves a lot of locals and lake-goers — operations consultant Kathy Strand was all smiles. Sunday sales are a no-brainer, she said.

"We are a convenience liquor store and Sunday sales are a convenience," she said.

Strand's good friend Amy Sieben, visiting from Wyoming, Minn., bought brandy for the novelty of it.

"It's a good Sunday drink," said her husband, Bill Sieben.

At Super One Liquor Store in Pike Lake, Patrick Miner wheeled a shopping cart's worth of beer and wine into the back of his truck.

He's not just a customer, he's the owner — and he's definitely pro-Sunday sales.

"It's one of the top three (shopping) days of the week," he said. "Customers have always had the opportunity to cross the bridge (to Wisconsin) and be served. They wanted flexibility."

A few feet away, Cory McDonald popped beer and Mike's Hard Lemonade into the back of his truck. It was weird to buy on Sunday, he said, a day he thinks of as a day of rest.

"I used to work here," he said. "It was nice to have a day off."

Still, he couldn't resist the holiday weekend.

"I'm going to relax and have a couple cold ones," McDonald said.

Though the Minnesota state law has changed, ordinances in individual cities take precedent. The Duluth City Council voted unanimously in favor of it last month, and the change will take effect on July 16 after a 30-day waiting period.

"It worked all right for us," said Strand, who estimated that 25 percent of customers had first made a stop at a closed Duluth liquor store.

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