Rand Liquor Ordinance (1892)

Rand Liquor Ordinance (1892)
The Rand Ordinance article title Minnesota Historical Society

In the second half of the 19th century, Minnesota was caught up in the national alcohol temperance movement. The intoxicating liquor industry was at the center of a conflict involving those who felt alcohol negatively influenced society and those who advocated drinking for enjoyment. By the 1880s, the fight between the factions reached a fever pitch.

Temperance supporters, believing 'King Alcohol' was responsible for much of the crime in the city, increased their efforts to control the liquor industry.

Despite being a hot-button issue for years, the intoxicating liquor business remained largely unregulated. As many as 252 saloons existed in Minneapolis by 1882 due to lax regulations. Two years later, the number increased to 523.

In 1884, Minneapolis mayor George A. Pillsbury instituted liquor patrol limits as part of the city's plan to curb this trend. Pillsbury's proposal mandated that all saloons be located along busy streets in the city's core and within walking distance of local police.

At the same time, city advocacy groups complained that local police were not adequately enforcing alcohol laws, so they took matters into their own hands to increase legal focus on Minneapolis saloons. City regulations stated that liquor-serving establishment owners could be charged with a crime if any city voter filed a complaint against them.

Temperance advocates employed whistleblower liquor 'crusaders' to spy on saloons and report liquor law violators. The system continued for years.

Criminal-spotters, however, did not receive universal praise for their efforts against saloons. Supporters lauded the citizen crusaders. but a growing number of locals felt their actions had crossed the line. To them the watchdogs had become little more than politically motivated vigilantes. Minneapolis' Democratic city council members shared this sentiment and took steps to limit their power.

Lars M. Rand, an alderman for the Sixth Ward, proposed in January 1892 that local police, not citizens, should enforce the city's liquor laws. On February 12, 1892, his amendments came before the city council. The Minneapolis liquor laws would be amended as part of Rand's legislation. Violators could now only be charged with a crime if police officers filed a complaint against them. Also, saloon owners who had their liquor license revoked were eligible for a prorated refund based on the remaining term.

The evening soon turned sour as politicians argued about the merits of passing or defeating the measure. After a one-and-a-half-hour argument, nine Republicans opposed to temperance exited the room to protest, leaving ten Democrats and five Republicans to decide the resolution's fate. Each of the remaining fifteen members voted in favor of the ordinance. Mayor Philip B. Winston signed the 'Rand Liquor Ordinance' into law on February 16, 1892.

Public outrage was immediate. Republicans, distancing their party from the decision, lamented the Rand ordinance as a 'Democratic victory.' Legal professionals questioned its legality, noting the Minneapolis charter allowed citizens to make claims against lawbreakers. Several advocacy groups pledged to disregard the law and continue using crusaders to fight lawlessness in saloons.

Mass protests broke out in the city only days after the amendment passed.

Legal challenges began soon after the passage of the Rand amendments. In an April 1892 case against saloon keeper W.H. Harris, Municipal Judge Charles B. Elliot ruled the section that required police officers to levy complaints against liquor ordinance violators was unlawful. The judge ruled the council lacked the authority to revoke the rights of private citizens.

With this decision, the city liquor law reverted to the previous version. Randy appealed to the state Supreme Court. Minnesota's high court overturned the lower court's decision on January 21, 1895, and declared the ordinance was valid.

While the matter had been settled in court, the political battle was far from over. Hennepin County Senator Gustav Theden introduced a bill on January 26, 1895, to circumvent the Rand amendment by re-authorizing "any elector" to report violations of both the city's and state's intoxicating liquor laws. The Senate passed the Theden bill on March 13 by a 70-37 margin following a series of committee hearings. On March 19, Governor David M. Clough, who proposed the legislation that led to the Rand ordinance, signed it.

His signature nullified one of the two amendments introduced by Rand in 1892. Voting citizens were once again able to file complaints against local saloons.

In fall 1904, Minneapolis Alderman E.W. Clark proposed an amendment to overturn the second provision of the Rand ordinance. On August 25, 1905, after more than a decade of political and legal battles, the last vestige of the Rand amendments was replaced by the Minneapolis city council with the passing of Clark's liquor license ordinance.

Rand proposed a new law to overturn Clark's, but it was politically unwise in the era of increasing temperance to support it. The effort was voted down in committee by a 15–9 margin.


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