Focus on New Laws: Sunday Off-Sale of Intoxicating Liquor

A law allowing Sunday liquor sales was passed during the regular session, but an additional special session law allows cities to opt out.
(Published Jul 3, 2017)

HF 30/SF 1086 was signed into law as 2017 Minnesota Laws Chapter 6 on March 7. This law allows anyone holding an off-sale intoxicating liquor license to sell off-sale on Sundays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. as of July 1, 2017. Initially, cities could be more restrictive than state law on the hours of sale, but could not block Sunday sales completely. However, this changed in the special session.

On May 30, Minnesota Laws First Special Session Chapter 4 was signed into law and took effect May 31. A tiny provision in Article 5, section 9 of this law allows cities to be more restrictive than state law on days of sale. As a result, cities now have the ability to effectively continue the prohibition on Sunday off-sale of intoxicating liquor within the boundaries of their city.

Cities are encouraged to work with the city attorney to adjust their liquor licensing ordinance to make sure it works for their particular community.

How to allow or prohibit Sunday sales
Generally speaking, if a liquor licensing ordinance sets hours and days of operation as “those set by Minnesota Statutes, section 340A.504, as it may be amended from time to time” or contains similar language, the ordinance will now authorize Sunday off-sale just as state law does. The League’s model ordinance contains an example of this language.

However, if a city’s ordinance lists specific days and hours and explicitly rules out off-sale on Sundays, that prohibition on Sunday will continue within the city unless the city council amends the ordinance.

Sunday deliveries
Chapter 6 includes provisions that disallow alcohol deliveries to off-sale licensees, as well as order solicitation/merchandising by wholesalers, on Sundays. Cities should be aware of these prohibitions and consider adding them to the city’s ordinance, because the city is more likely than the state to detect noncompliance.

Lastly, cities that authorized Sunday off-sale hours for growlers sometime since 2015 may wonder what effect the new Sunday statutory hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. have on council’s determined hours for growler sales. While it is far from clear, after consultation with the state, it seems reasonable to believe the hours council determines for growler sales are independent and unaffected by the hours set by the 2017 Sunday sales law.

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