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Paynesville Press - December 10, 2003

City to hold another referendum for on-sale liquor sales on Sundays

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Paynesville residents will vote on Tuesday, Feb. 10, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to decide whether to allow on-sale liquor to be sold in the city on Sundays. It will be the third time in four years that city residents have voted on the matter.

City residents have twice rejected allowing on-sale liquor to be sold on Sundays within the city. In November 2000, at a general election, residents rejected the measure 534-508. In July 2001, the issue failed again in a special election 262-184.

While it is not legal to sell off-sale liquor (liquor sold to be consumed elsewhere) on Sundays in Minnesota, state law allows the sale of liquor consumed on-site, or on-sale liquor, if a community votes to allow it.

The measure will be brought to a vote again due to a petition raised by Doris and Tom Wendlandt, owners of Queen Bee's Bar and Grill. They gathered 210 signatures, or 10 percent of the number of voters in the last general election in the city.

They presented the petition to the city council in late November. The council had denied the Wendlandt's request earlier this fall to put the measure to a vote by council resolution, forcing the Wendlandts to gather their petition to force a vote.

Doris Wendlandt believes that a referendum may be successful this time, especially if voters consider that Sunday on-sale liquor is already available in the community, at Northern Lights and at the Koronis Hills Golf Course. Both are located within a mile of downtown, she noted, but are in Paynesville Township.

Aware that some residents will oppose the resolution on religious grounds, Doris said that the measure is necessary for her to operate her business on Sundays. She believes patrons will visit her establishment on Sundays to watch sports, to play pool and darts, or to grab a burger after shopping in town. She also hopes to add a Sunday brunch to the menu. "It's not all about the liquor," she said.

The world no longer works Monday to Friday, pointed out Tom. For some people, Sunday is another workday.

The Wendlandts feel that the restriction against on-sale liquor - which does not prohibit them from opening on Sundays, only from selling alcoholic drinks - is an unnecessary restriction on their business. Doris explained, "I am the only business in the city that is restricted. All of the other downtown businesses have the right to be open seven days a week for 24 hours."

Queen Bee's would probably not stay open late on Sundays, she said.

A date had not been set for the special election by press time. State law requires 49 days notice to the county auditor before a special election can be held, and the city needs to hire judges, arrange for a building for the election, and have ballots printed, said Chris Lundgren, the city's election officer.

The earliest an election could be held would be February, said Lundgren, who planned to have a firm date for the election by the next city council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 10.

Lundgren estimated the cost of a special election to be similar to the special election in July 2001, costing about $1,800. According to state law, if the referendum fails, a special election can be held again in six months, if requested.

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