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ISSUE 121 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/16/2007

Laws recall prohibition

By Paul Christiansen
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm writing this article at 9 a.m., and there are probably a few things that I need more than 40 ounces of Mickey's highest grade, large batch, malt liquor. But the fact that I can't just walk down the street and pick up a giant bottle of Milwaukee's arguably finest low-priced, high alcohol content, taste be-damned brew changes everything.

I now have a nagging urge to accompany my Pop-Tart with a brown paper-bagged bottle. If this were any other day of the week, I would have no trouble snatching up the change from my dresser, buying the booze and returning to my apartment to twist off the top of a $2.69 buzz.

Unfortunately, it's Sunday. In Minnesota, liquor laws stipulate that no alcohol (with the exception of offensively watery 3.2 percent beer) may be sold on Sunday. While the average St. Olaf student might be too young and too restricted by the college's dry campus policy to be affected by the law, it's still an issue relevant to anyone who values freedom or alcohol.

I come from Wisconsin, a state where 16 year-olds can order beer so long as one of their parents is present and approves. It's no surprise then that in my home state, I can stop at a gas station or grocery store on Sunday at 11 a.m. and walk out with enough hard liquor or beer to ensure that my clear head won't interfere with my afternoon.

Minnesota, however, does not agree with treating alcohol this liberally. Furthermore, St. Olaf College has contributed to Minnesota's history of teetotaling. Former Minnesota Congressman and St. Olaf graduate Andrew Volstead was the greatest promoter and champion of the prohibition law in the 1920s. A legacy of compromised imbibing has followed.

Minnesota now belongs to the minority group of states that won't sell liquor in stores on Sundays. The restrictions resulted from the so-called "blue laws." This country's foundational Puritan morals initially produced these federal and state laws that aim to keep people's behavior respectable.

Many laws, such as those that kept restaurants closed on Sundays, have been repealed to coincide with a changing society. For Minnesota, however, the laws relating to alcohol have remained, and it might be time to re-examine their value. The most speculated reason for the continued ban on Sunday alcohol sales relates to the day's Christian significance. Apparently, people should be in the pews and not celebrating a day of rest by relaxing with a stiff drink. If the option of buying and then consuming pre-noon tequila shots keeps people away from receiving their Lord and Savior, Christianity might be in some serious trouble.

However, to gain a different perspective, I visited St. Dominic's church and talked to the priest. He told me that he has no problem when alcohol is sold as long as it's consumed responsibly. I assume that this was an honest response and not the product of having an endless supply of communion wine available to him every Sunday.

It's true that most of my arguments can be countered with the question "Why not just plan ahead and go to the liquor store on Saturday?" Unfortunately, that kind of foresight and planning can drown in an unexpected flood of Saturday night consumption. When over-priced pints in a bar are too much for my wallet and an insatiable thirst the night before leaves my mini-fridge devoid of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, my Sundays become tragically dry.

The law affects more than irresponsible college kids ,though. I imagine the inability to acquire a complimenting wine has ruined many mature Sunday dinner parties. They may not constitute travesties, but Minnesota's outdated liquor laws need to be revised to allow citizens the same freedoms found in nearly every other sector of a free market. Simply put, my life would be a little easier if I could go to liquor stores on Sundays. Even if this is an opinion shared by a majority of citizens, it hardly takes precedence over many other issues demanding attention. The law probably won't be changed for quite some time, so until it is, I suggest storing away an extra bottle or two of Fat Tire for the unfortunate Sunday when you find your whistle especially dry.

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