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Paynesville Press - January 28, 2004

City residents to vote on Sunday liquor again

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

For the third time in four years, Paynesville voters will vote to decide whether to allow on-sale liquor sales in the city on Sundays.

A special election on this issue is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 10. Voting will take place at the Paynesville Area Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In previous votes by city residents, allowing on-sale liquor sales on Sundays has been voted down twice. In November 2000, residents rejected the measure 534-508 at a general election. In July 2001, the issued failed again in a special election 262-184.

Doris and Tom Wendlandt, owners of Queen Bee's Bar and Grill, who organized the petition putting this measure to a vote again, hope the measure will pass in its third time at the polls. The Wendlandts would like to open their business on Sundays for patrons to watch sporting events or have a burger and a beer. They would also like to hold special events on Sundays. It would be unlikely that the bar would be open late on Sundays, said Doris.

If the measure passes, Queen Bee's Bar and Grill and the Paynesville American Legion, would be permitted to sell alcohol - to be consumed on site only - on Sundays. (Off-sale liquor - that is liquor sold to be consumed off site - is prohibited on Sundays in Minnesota by state law.)

Currently, on-sale liquor is available on Sundays in Paynesville Township, noted Doris, at Northern Lights Dining and Lounge and at Koronis Hills Golf Course. She argues that her business needs to be allowed to sell liquor on Sundays in order for her business to operate profitably on Sundays. She also thinks that allowing on-sale liquor sales on Sunday will benefit the downtown business community.

Chuck Koshiol, a local business owner, agreed that on-sale liquor on Sundays could benefit the city by bringing people into Paynesville to shop on Sundays. He feels that bars should have the right to set their own hours, just like any other business in Paynesville.

Because on-sale liquor sales on Sundays could increase the number of patrons at other businesses, the Paynesville Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has also voted to support the measure.

Opposition to the issue has focused on religous reasons, with many voters wanting to keep Sunday holy. "Sunday is God's day, and it should stay that way," said Paynesville resident Lew Lang.

Joe Williquette, who is the youth minister at Paynesville Evangelical Free Church and a city resident, said he understands both sides of the argument. But while he realizes that the Wendlandts need to earn a living, he would like liquor sales to be restricted at least one day a week for the sake of families.

Koshiol questioned whether voters should impose their beliefs on the rest of the city. "Who has the right to force their morals on someone else? This is a nation of freedoms," he said. "It's not easy making a living in a small town. Most of us need to be open seven days a week just to make a living," he added.

But Williquette pointed out that while Queen Bee's can't serve liquor on Sundays, the bar could still open to serve food and patrons could still enjoy Sunday brunch or a football game without alcohol. "I wish people didn't think they needed alcohol to have a good time," he said.

Williquette also believes there should be a limit on how many times the city must allow an election on this issue. Each special election costs about $1,800; however, the city has no choice but to continue holding the elections as long as the elections are requested properly.

According to state law, referendums on the issue can be held by order of the city council or forced by a petition bearing the signatures of at least 10 percent of the voters in the last general election. Referendums can be held every six months.

If properly petitioned, the city must allow the election, though it does have some discretion over when it is held, said city administrator Steve Helget.

In this case, because a general election was not scheduled in the city until November, a special election was set for February.

Doris Wendlandt is optimistic that the issue will pass this time. She has had a lot of positive feedback from her customers and members of the community, she said.

If the issue doesn't pass this time though, Doris said she is prepared to keep bringing it to a vote until it does pass. "I'm losing business every Sunday I'm not allowed to sell liquor," said Doris.

If the city must hold another referendum this year, it would likely be held in conjunction with the general election in November, said Helget.

The special election for on-sale liquor sales on Sundays will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the Paynesville Area Center from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots are available at city hall.

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