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Legislators propose 4 a.m. bar closing time in Minnesota

ST. PAUL—Some Minnesota legislators think the call for "last call" should be two hours later.

A measure slated for a hearing on Wednesday would shift the statewide bar closing time from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m. Bars could re-open at 8 a.m. most days of the week.

State Rep. Jeff Howe, who is sponsoring the measure in the House, said he was inspired by moves to extend bar hours in Minneapolis when the 2018 Super Bowl comes to town.

"I look at is as: They had a bill to extend it for Minneapolis — from 2 (a.m.) to 4 (a.m.) — and I thought: 'Why are we doing it just for one weekend?' If it's good for that weekend ... why not do it the rest of the year," he said. "If it's good for Minneapolis, it should be good for the rest of the state."

The broader measure might have a hard time becoming law.

The Minnesota Legislature debated for years over permitting bars to stay open until 2 a.m., an hour later than the longtime 1 a.m. closing time. Lawmakers approved the extended hour in 2003 only after leaders cut a deal to put in place a fee that would help fund state troopers' salaries.

Howe, a Republican from Rockville, noted that his bill actually has a hearing this week. But that does not guarantee it will become law.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

State Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, is sponsoring the 4 a.m. close time in the Senate but, he said, it's not his priority this year.

"I'm not pushing it real hard," he said.

Osmek is more focused on another liquor issue: Sunday liquor store sales. Minnesota now bans liquor stores from Sunday hours. The House may vote next week to lift the ban. The Senate position on removing the prohibition has been less clear.

But Monday, Osmek said he gave the Sunday sales proposal "better than a 50-50 shot" in the Senate.

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