- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota beer lovers would find it easier to enjoy their pursuit on Sundays under a bill advanced by a Senate committee for expanded alcohol sales on the seventh day.

Without testimony or debate, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill included three proposals by Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth.

One would allow taprooms to make Sunday sales. Another would allow craft-beer brewers to sell 64-ounce containers called “growlers” on Sundays. And the third would allow small brewers and brewpubs to refill any growler on Sundays.

The bill makes no provision for full retail sales of alcohol statewide on Sundays, which has been long sought by some at the Capitol and consistently defeated. But the limited package pushed by Reinert is seen as helpful to Minnesota’s craft beer lovers and brewers.

“The best part is it took five minutes, with no comments at all about the Sunday-sales provision,” Reinert said during a break in testimony. “Which shows how well-received these baby steps are.”

Reinert is a longtime advocate of repealing Minnesota’s ban on Sunday alcohol sales.

Gov. Mark Dayton said earlier this year that he’d sign a repeal bill. Reinert gave up on that goal last week when he realized he didn’t have the votes to support it.

But he warned his colleagues in the House, all of whom are up for re-election in November, that they should expect Sunday alcohol sales to be a campaign issue.

“Constituents are going to demand their representatives take a stance on this,” Reinert said.

Minnesota is one of 12 states that doesn’t allow in-store liquor sales on Sunday. Sixteen states have repealed bans since 2000, and all four states that border Minnesota allow Sunday sales.

Lobbying by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association and its members have helped preserve the ban in past years. The full House rejected repeal last year by 106-21.

Many small liquor store owners support the Sunday prohibition, saying it saves them from having to be open a seventh day of the week for competitive reasons while not adding much profit.

Reinert’s bill got a helping hand from the beverage association. Joe Bagnoli, an association lobbyist, testified earlier that the Sunday growler idea wouldn’t directly affect liquor stores.

The legislation now goes to the state Senate Taxes Committee.