ST. PAUL — Minnesota craft beverage producers on Monday, June 7, renewed their push to update the state's liquor laws to do away with Minnesota's cap on growler sales at breweries and permanently allow for restaurants and bars to sell wine, beer and mixed drinks to go.
The producers along with Minnesota Hospitality industry leaders and state legislators at a news conference said they'd keep up a public pressure campaign to advance the bill as the Legislature returns for a special session next week. The plan, titled the Drink Local Economic Recovery Package, would also allow cideries to sell cider to go, boost the offerings that breweries and distilleries could sell patrons and free up liquor stores, bars and restaurants to fill growlers.
Legislative working groups have been attempting to negotiate state budget bills in meetings almost exclusively out of the public eye.
And so far, a legislative working group writing the state's commerce budget has declined to hold a hearing on the proposal and didn't include it in an agreement for that area of the state's next two-year spending plan. Committee chairs have said they wanted all stakeholders to agree on a plan before they would advance it.
Liquor store owners and beer distributors have stood against the bill, saying that opening up broader sales at taprooms or breweries could pull sales from their businesses.
Minnesota business owners have brought the proposals before, citing limits on their ability to grow and compete. But coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, craft beverage producers said the changes were critical as they aimed to stay afloat financially.
"We're not going anywhere until these laws change. We're here to stay," said Lauren Bennett McGinty, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. "We hope that the Legislature will take a stand and doing something about it and help us be competitive with our neighbors and the rest of the country."
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Despite that opposition and a bipartisan roadblock in the Legislature, the bill's authors said they'd continue to push for the plan's passage.
“I think all of us are here because we see a path forward and we come here to represent the voice of our constituents and by and large, this is what my constituents are asking," Rep. Liz Olson, D-Duluth, said.
And they said public pressure could help advance the plan this year.
“Until we have the budget and we’re finalized there’s always an opportunity. And again, the reason we finally got Sunday sales is because the public reached out and put enough pressure on and now is the time,” Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, said. “The demand is so great. It’s time we get out of the antiquated prohibition days policies.”