North Dakota Legislature approves Sunday morning booze sales

March 26, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature moved Friday to allow booze sales on Sunday mornings, marking further relaxation of what had been the nation’s toughest business restrictions on that day.

The House voted to 49-41 to allow alcohol sales seven days a week begging at 8 a.m. Bars and restaurants can’t serve alcohol from 2 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sundays, while liquor stores can’t sell alcohol until noon.

The Senate narrowly approved the measure last month. It now goes to GOP Gov. Doug Burgum. If signed, the change would take effect Aug. 1.

North Dakota has had “blue laws” restricting business on Sunday since it became a state in 1889. They stemmed from fears that shopping on Sunday morning would compete with church.

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After many failed attempts over the years, the Legislature in 2019 repealed Sunday business restrictions but left in place the prohibition of early alcohol sales.

The measure got a “do-not-pass” recommendation in the House Judiciary Committee.

Minot GOP Rep. Robert Paulson, who carried the bill on the House floor, said the committee felt there was “plenty of time to buy alcohol in our state as it is now.”

Supporters of the measure said it was unfair to single out alcohol sales now that most other Sunday shopping bans have been repealed.

North Dakota slowly has relaxed its blue laws over the years, including those aimed at Sunday shopping. North Dakota law once required most businesses to stay closed on Sundays, but that was changed in 1985 to allow grocery stores to open. The Legislature in 1991 allowed most businesses to open on Sundays but they couldn’t open their doors before noon.

The state Supreme Court has twice upheld the ban, once in the mid-1960s and again in the early 1990s. The state’s high court, in similar conclusions, ruled that the law was not to aid religion, but rather to set aside a day for “rest and relaxation.”

In 2015 the Legislature voted to allow restaurants and bars to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays, instead of noon. Proponents said North Dakota’s booze restrictions put cities bordering other states at a disadvantage because those states allow for earlier sales on Sundays.

The bill leaves in place the state’s all-day ban on Sunday vehicle sales.

The measure’s fiscal note estimates Sunday morning alcohol sales could raise $312,000 over the next two-year budget cycle in tax revenue for the state.