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Minnesotans protest Sunday sales ban with beer run to Hudson

Minnesotans hopeful of reversing their state’s ban on Sunday liquor sales made a beer run to Hudson to draw attention to their cause.

After a brief rally at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul last Sunday, business owners and politicians climbed into about 30 vehicles and headed east on Interstate 94.

They visited two of Hudson’s most popular destinations for Sunday visitors from Minnesota – Casanova Liquor Store on Coulee Road and Spirit Seller Liquors on Second Street.

TV cameras were rolling as members of the group exited the stores with purchases in hand.

The Star Tribune newspaper also covered the caravan.

“We crossed the border to spend money where it’s welcomed,” Andrew Schmitt, director of a group named Minnesota Beer Activists, was quoted as saying in the Star Tribune after purchasing a six-pack of New Glarus beer from Spirit Seller.

Tamra Kramer, owner of a gourmet foods and liquor store in the Mall of America, was reported to have purchased a bottle of whiskey and gluten-free beer from Casanova Liquor.

Kramer told the Star Tribune she loses between $50,000 and $100,000 a year by not being able to sell liquor at her Vom Fass store on Sundays.

“It’s a lot of money for a small-business owner like myself,” Kramer was quoted as saying.

Minnesota politicians on both sides of the aisle have renewed a push to repeal the state’s 80-year law prohibiting Sunday liquor sales.

Sen. Susan Kent, a Democrat from Woodbury; Sen. David Osmek, a Republican from Mound; and Rep. Sarah Anderson, a Republican from Plymouth; were among the speakers at the rally.

“I am tired of sending our tax revenue and our commerce every Sunday to Wisconsin. It’s wrong and it needs to change,” Osmek was quoted as saying in the Star Tribune.

The newspaper said a Minnesota House Committee took up reforming the state’s liquor laws earlier this month.

Tyrrell Gaffer of Casanova Liquor said it will cut into his store’s bottom line if Minnesota does allow Sunday sales.

“It’s one of the busier days of the week. It’s equal to Fridays and Saturdays,” Gaffer said of Sundays at Casanova Liquor. “If it became a Monday kind of business day, it would be a decent hit.”

He told the Star Tribune his overall sales might drop 15 to 20 percent.

“It’s going to happen eventually. We’ve always known that,” Gaffer said in a phone call from the Star-Observer. “But we’re OK with it not happening, too.”

Gaffer said part of the reason his store is so popular is that they’ve brought in a big variety of craft and specialty beers, as well as growlers.

When Gaffer’s parents bought Casanova Liquor 12 years ago, the store relied on Sunday sales for almost all of its business, he said.

“Now we’re busy every single day with people from Minnesota and all over the country, actually, coming to get all the funky beers and wines and liquors we can bring in,” Gaffer said.

John Kromer, owner of Spirit Seller Liquors, also said the Sunday sales ban isn’t the only thing that brings Minnesotans to his store.

Kromer said prices are lower at his store for many products. He also noted that Wisconsin has a lower sales tax than Minnesota.

“Then we offer certain micro beers and different products that are not available in Minnesota, or are hard to get,” he said.

And a lot of Minnesotans come to Hudson for the small-town, river-town charm, Kromer said.

“I think people like to come over and visit and go to a restaurant … walk along the river,” he said.

Kromer was out of town when the caravan of vehicles flying flags saying “Thank you Minnesota! See you next Sunday!” came to Spirit Seller.

He said he didn’t mind the Minnesotans using his store to make a statement.

“They are going to do what they can to influence the people they are looking to influence,” he said.

Not all Minnesota liquor store owners support ending the ban on Sunday sales.

The Star Tribune reported that the manager of Good Times Liquors in Norwood Young America released a statement from the SMART Campaign supporting Minnesota’s current alcohol regulations.

“The activists here today are working against the hundreds of small local businesses in Minnesota to deregulate our current smart and balanced alcohol regulations. We hope these activists will shop at local Minnesota stores in the future. It’s sad they are promoting Wisconsin businesses for political promotion at our expense,” the Star Tribune quoted the statement as saying.