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Paynesville Press - February 18, 2004

Voters reject on-sale liquor on Sundays again

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

For the third time in four years, voters in the city of Paynesville rejected allowing on-sale liquor sales on Sundays in a special referendum last week, by a vote of 181-160.

The measure would have made it legal to sell liquor to be consumed on the premises on Sundays within the city limits. (State law prohibits the sale of off-sale liquor on Sundays.)

The measure had failed twice at the polls before, by a vote of 534-508 at a general election in November 2000, and 262-184 at a special election in July 2001.

One reason for opposition to the proposal continues to be religious beliefs. Reverend Les Kringle of Calvary Baptist Church was pleased with the election results.

"Sunday is the Lord's day," said Kringle. "I feel that if people want to drink, they should do it sensibly, and Sunday should be a day off."

The proposal was brought to a vote by Doris and Tom Wendlandt, owners of Queen Bee's Bar and Grill in Paynesville. "We're saddened by the result," said Doris.

The Wendlandts want to be able to serve alcoholic beverages on Sundays in order to operate their business seven days a week. They want to be able to open on Sunday for brunches, for football games, and for downtown shoppers and visitors to be able to grab a burger and beer.

The Wendlandts gathered 200 signatures of city residents on a petition, the amount needed to force the city to hold a special election.

In fact, the Wendlandts gathered more signatures on their petition than the number of voters who supported the measure at the polls. With only 342 people (one ballot was spoiled) turning out to vote at the special election, Doris was disappointed with the turnout.

"It's not good that people didn't get out and exercise their right to vote," she said.

She was proud of the voters who did turn out, especially those who may have been voting for the first time.

According to Paynesville election officer Chris Lundgren, the poor turnout was likely due to the bad weather on Tuesday, Feb. 10.

Doris figures some people were unhappy with the special election costing the city about $1,800, but she pointed out that the city regularly spends money on things that not every taxpayer agrees with.

The proposal was brought to a vote in accordance to procedures set out in state law.

Doris was also disappointed that the measure was presumably rejected for religious reasons. "We should never mix government with religion," she said.

"I'm disappointed with the election result," added Jean Soine, who also owns a downtown business and serves on the city council. As a retail business owner, Soine said she knows how hard it is to earn a living in a small town, and realizes that requires being open seven days a week. "You need to do everything you can to make a living," she said.

Soine, whose business is across the street from Queen Bee's, said that visitors to Paynesville inquire at her store whether the bar is open on Sundays. She also has seen people checking the door at Queen Bee's on Sundays to see if it was open.

By state statute, another election can be held in six months. Originally, the Wendlandts planned to bring the issue to a vote again, but now Doris doesn't know if they will or not. She plans to take a little time before deciding what to do.

If the Wendlandts choose to pursue another election this year, the measure could be put to a vote again at the general election in November.

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