Throughout a big chunk of the metro area, off-sale liquor stores close at the Victorian hour of 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. Get serious: How are we to survive after another round in the urban pressure-cooker without a late-night stiff one to wind us down? A Minnesota state statute, 340A.504, specifies an 8:00 p.m. closing time for booze shops, unless--and here's the catch--they're more than 15 miles from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, or unless--catch No. 2--they're in a different county. Both of these booze centrals fall into the other-county category: Top Valu is in Anoka County, and Chet's is in Dakota. Which means they stay open until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday without fear of some teetotaling puritan narking to the cops. So the next time you get thirsty after all of your neighborhood spirit houses have sounded last call, race over the county line, stock up, and kick back with a toast to the loophole that made your imbibing possible.


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