Don’t like a law? Just ignore it

In the big scheme of things, there perhaps isn’t a lot of harm that Jim Surdyk did on Sunday by defying the law and selling alcohol on Sunday at his store in Minneapolis. The Legislature has approved Sunday sales effective July 1 and Surdyk figured he might as well get a head start.

So what is it about the move that gets some people annoyed?

Simple. A lot of people don’t like people who flaunt flout the law.

The move isn’t much different from preachers who endorse political candidates from the pulpit, daring the federal government to do something about (it usually doesn’t).

They don’t like clerks who refused to obey the law allowing same-sex couples to get married because they didn’t like the law.

Selling booze on Sunday isn’t a civil rights violation, but the notion that people can choose which laws to obey is bothersome to many people, while others find the “rebel” in Surdyk to be endearing.

Plus it’s Minneapolis, where thou shall speak no ill of booze. Once people heard Surdyk opened his store, they drove into town to experience history.

“The governor signed the bill, everyone wants the bill, they voted for it, why not be in business?” Surdyk told the Star Tribune.

Because the law matters and nobody should think it doesn’t apply to them.

  • It’ll be interesting to see how the state weighs in on this, presumably tomorrow. I feel bad for the employees that are going to be hurt if Surdyk’s has their license suspended or revoked.

    • Rob

      They’ll get a wrist slap fine.

      • MrE85

        Now we know. Stiff fine AND a 30-day license suspension, starting July 2, the day store who followed the law can legally begin selling on Sunday.

        • Rob

          It’ll get negotiated down.

          • Jack

            I hope not. Time to take a stand.

            Time for laws to apply to everyone across the board. Ethical behavior anyone?

  • BReynolds33

    I think it’s a dangerous thing to say no one should flaunt the law when they feel it is unjust. There is a long history of people in this country (and human history) violating the law purposefully and accepting the consequences of those actions.

    As you said, this isn’t a civil rights issue, but Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an unknown if he had simply accepted that the law is the law. Martin Luther (the original) never would have nailed his theses to the door of the church, and all Christians would still be Catholic. The underground railroad would never have freed slaves. The list could go on and on.

    Side note: The county clerks are not a direct comparison, as they are government officials. Government officials are not allowed to violate the law and remain government officials, though, as we saw, they are certainly welcome to violate that law and accept the consequences of their actions. The major difference being if a government official refuses to uphold rights guaranteed by the Constitution, it leads to a violation of a citizen’s rights and a potentially massive lawsuit.

    I think the Surdyks went into this with their eyes open, knowing full well what the consequences were, and did it anyway. Unless they flat out said so, I wouldn’t guess they think the law doesn’t apply to them, I would guess they know full well it does and didn’t care. The former is arrogance, the latter is civil disobedience, something we need a great deal more of.

    • I wonder if the employees got much notice their day off would be a day on.

      • BReynolds33

        That’s a great question. I also wonder if they can be held as complicit in this or not. Should be interesting to see how it plays out.

        • Rob

          It’s not a matter of complicity if the choice is to come to work or be fired.

          • BReynolds33

            I was just following orders is rarely a suitable defense.

          • Rob

            This ain’t a Nuremberg situation; inapt analogy.

          • BReynolds33

            Nuremberg isn’t the only example. Employees told to do unethical things in multiple corporations have been charged and convicted for those actions, despite being told if they did not do them, they would lose their jobs.

          • Rob

            Yup, if they are officers/corporate suite folks, like in the Enron clusterf¢€k. Haven’t heard of too many rank and file people being charged and convicted.

          • RBHolb

            With a few exceptions, licensees are responsible for the unlawful sale of alcohol. Employees would not get in trouble for selling on a Sunday.

    • RBHolb

      I’m disinclined to see this as any kind of principled protest.

      Unlike Martin Luther, or Martin Luther King, Mr. Surdyk is not protesting an unjust law. He merely feels that a law (which he opposed in the past, as I understand it) should be in effect now, rather than as of July 2. It was within the Legislature’s power to give the law immediate effect, but it chose not to do so.

      Civil disobedience is supposed to have some goal. What is this “protest” supposed to accomplish except free advertising? Sunday sales will soon be legal–nothing he does is going to change that.

      • BReynolds33

        You can see it as whatever you wish. How you see it and how he sees it may be two different things, and all that really matters is how he sees it. I was taking a stab at motive, I have no concrete evidence to provide to support that.

        If we are discussing opinion, I feel he is protesting an unjust law. Any law as arbitrary as this one, with no rational, factual, or distinct purpose, is unjust. There is no victim if liquor is sold on a Sunday. There is no damage done by selling an otherwise legal product on the 7th day of the week, as opposed to only six.

        The arbitrariness of “it’s not legal today, but will be tomorrow” is certainly worthy of protest. I could not rightly care less if the legislature made it legal immediately or in July. It is currently illegal. I get that, and I am fairly certain he does as well. However, with the above rationale, the law remains unjust.

        While I disagree wholeheartedly that civil disobedience is “supposed to” have anything other than the will of an individual to take action, this certainly has a goal. To show the absurdity of the law, and the absurdity of the implementation of law.

        He got free advertising, he got some sales, and he made a point about stupid laws being stupid.

        • RBHolb

          “How you see it and how he sees it may be two different things, and all that really matters is how he sees it.” Civil disobedience depends on public awareness, and public discussion. It is an appeal to public awareness.

          “Any law as arbitrary as this one, with no rational, factual, or distinct purpose, is unjust.” So why did he wait until now to protest it? As I understand it, Mr. Surdyk was opposed to Sunday sales before this happened–what changed, beyond trying for some free publicity? Why is it, in his eyes, stupid now?

          “The arbitrariness of “it’s not legal today, but will be tomorrow” is certainly worthy of protest.” Well, no. That’s just how laws are made. There is always a certain arbitrary nature to drawing legislative lines (Why is shoplifting articles worth $500 a gross misdemeanor? Why not $400? Or $609.52?). There is seldom a line that will be completely rational. Delayed effective dates are the norm, and they give those who will comply with the laws time to prepare.

          • BReynolds33

            We’ve moved into arguing semantics and what your opinion of the definition of words are. I have no interest in trying to convince you that you don’t get to define what constitutes civil disobedience. I’ll let, you know, the dictionary handle that:

            I don’t know why he did this. I’m not him. You would have to ask him why he waited. Why didn’t he wait until next week? Or why not on June 25th? I don’t know. Maybe he saw them change the law, but not just yet, and that was enough absurdity. Maybe he was bored. Maybe it took him this long to get enough employees to be available on a Sunday. I have no idea. It also doesn’t matter why now.

            As to your last paragraph, I give you a resounding “meh.” Arbitrary is arbitrary, and worthy of protest. You can agree or not. He broke the law willingly, and will face the consequences. If that ruffles your feathers, stay in your comfort zone and don’t break the law.

          • rallysocks

            //I don’t know why he did this…//

            Or maybe he’s just a jerk?
            “My father was the first one to discount liquor way back in the 1960s, and he didn’t wait until July to do it,” Surdyk said. And he told WCCO that Sunday sales were signed into law and that’s “good enough for him.”

            ETA: thus far, I have not seen a quote from him that puts him in a favorable light.

  • Gary F

    My local owner/operator liquor store guy told me that when St Paul allowed 10PM liquor sales that the city wouldn’t allow him to stay open until he paid his liquor license in full. The City of St Paul pro rated his liquor license by the 8 extra hours he was open per week.

  • Rex Schultrich

    I’m sure the city will gladly take the fine money today. It remains to be seen what they will do going forward, especially if other liquor stores follow Surdyk’s lead next week. I suppose the worst case scenario would be to revoke their liquor license, but I don’t see that happening.

  • Gary F

    The Berlin Wall of booze. Next, car dealerships defying the law. Uber and Lyft thumbing their noses at the airport at the two big cities. Mpls restaurants using foam to go containers. Airbnb defying the two big cities.

    The fight for liberty!

    • Will

      In the end, freedom and the free market wins.

      How much free advertising is Surdyk’s getting? With the profits, good will and free advertising they’re getting by opening today they will more than cover any fine.

      If the people don’t have faith in the reasoning behind a law then many will choose to follow those laws only when a police officer is looking.

      • Moffitt

        You’re confusing “freedom” with a stunt. This isn’t about the free market, either. Jim Surdyk was taking advantage of other owners who are following the law. From the reactions I have seen, he’s getting plenty of ill will as well. I have been a loyal Surdyk’s customer for years. I’m rethinking that position. No one like as cheat, and cheaters shouldn’t win.
        There were a few places that thought they could flaunt the smoking ban, too. They were wrong.
        If Surdyk’s tries to pull this next week, I suspect the city and state officials will be ready to lower the boom and close their doors.

        • Neil

          Surdyks doesn’t have to compete against grocery stores either, so not the freest of markets.

      • Rob

        In the end, monopolies and large corporate interests usually win. But whatever.

    • Bob Sinclair

      Its not a fight for liberty. Its a rush to chaos.

  • Vince Tuss

    I don’t think you have to worry about any car dealers opening.

  • Mike Worcester

    There was no effort to shut them down by city officials (MPD?) for what was obviously operating outside their license? If not, what would be the reason?

    • BReynolds33

      The city called them and told them to shut down. The enforcement part of the statute does not allow for arrest, so not much MPD can do.

  • Rob

    I think Surdyk is a dyk for doing this.

    • rallysocks

      me too…total dick move in my book. Why be a jerk when they finally get what they wanted?

      • Except that Jim Surdyk was /against/ changing the law … until he was for it, after all the work /other/ people did to change the law. Definitely a dyk.

        • rallysocks

          ha, yes…there’s that. I posted before i saw that part. Just makes him doubly dykish.

  • Jack

    Saw on WCCO that the owner said that the store has a history of going early on laws. In accounting, we call that “Early adoption”.

    • Tim

      In Silicon Valley, they would say he was a “disruptor”.

  • Postal Customer

    Sell liquor on Sunday? Ooh, bad guy. Big fines. Broke the law. Dontcha know.

    Lie to congress? Well, see, that’s complicated.

  • MikeB

    Something tells me that I cannot treat the speed limit as optional.

    • BReynolds33

      Sure you can. But you’ll face the consequences, just like they will.

      • MikeB

        We’ll see how the consequences compare to the revenue and PR gains from being open yesterday.

        • BJ

          I have a feeling the fine will not be small.

          • John

            It was at $3500 at one point yesterday. I didn’t hear the final tally.

          • BJ

            Assuming a 20% profit margin At that point $17,500 in sales just to cover the fine.

          • John

            You gotta move a lotta Grain Belt.

          • Rob

            SirDyk’s attorneys will bargain it down.

          • MikeB

            Unless they pull the license for a day (hopefully longer) I think it is an overall win for Surdyks

  • BJ

    In a Venn diagram I wonder how many people that applaud this, condemn people for a protest on the highway.

  • crystals

    It’s an interesting calculus on the part of Surdyk’s. Hope that the combination of sales and free PR outweighs the fines and annoyance from the rule followers like me, who haven’t set foot in their store in 20 years anyways, I guess?

  • Jeff

    This seems like very risky stunt. The State could easily pull their license and with all the attention it’s getting they might want to make a statement. Maybe he had one too many bourbons. Full disclosure: I’ve been guilty of that too.

  • crystals

    The City of Minneapolis dropped the boom on them: a one month suspension of liquor license starting, wait for it, July 2nd.

    Surdyk’s will presumably appeal. Will be interesting to see what happens then.

  • Jerry

    The important thing to realise I’d that by doing this he wasn’t “sticking it to the man”, he was sticking it to other liquor stores. That’s what cheating does. It doesn’t hurt the authorities, it hurts those who follow the rules.

  • Jerry

    “Because the law matters and nobody should think it doesn’t apply to them”

    Are you sure you’re a Patriots fan?

    • You hate us cuz you ain’t us.

      • Jerry

        Meh, I’m pretty ambivalent about the Pats.

  • lindblomeagles

    And people say alcohol isn’t addicting. The dealer can’t wait for July 1st, and neither can the users. Hypocrisy at its finest.