Minn. Senate defeats Sunday booze sales bid

New brewery
Dangerous Man Brewing Co. owner Rob Miller fills a growler while chatting with a colleague in Minneapolis, Minn. in January 2013.
Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News, File

The future of a bill that would alter some of Minnesota's liquor laws is in jeopardy after senators argued Tuesday over alcohol sales on Sundays.

The larger liquor bill became tangled in a fight over whether to let craft brewers sell growlers of beer on Sundays.

Senators voted to allow 43-21 to allow Sunday sales of the 64 ounce growlers. That led the sponsor of the larger bill, Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, to pull the entire bill from consideration.

Supporters say Sunday growler sales would provide financial help to smaller taprooms across the state. Opponents see it as part of a broader effort to entirely lift the ban on Sunday liquor sales.

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The Teamsters Union has also objected to the growler sales provision, fearing it could reopen their labor contracts with liquor distributors, which could put pay and working conditions back on the bargaining table.

It's not clear if the bill will come back for debate. If not, it could hurt taprooms in another way: Without the bill, they can't be open on Sundays.

Metzen said he warned his colleagues that would happen if the growler provision was adopted. "All I can say is it's a work in progress," he added.

Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound said allowing the growler sales would help smaller craft brewers.

"This is a pro-business, jobs vote that everyone should be on board with," he said. "We should be helping, not hurting, small businesses. They want to be open on Sunday."

People should be able to buy alcohol on Saturdays if they want to drink on Sundays, countered Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

"People should be able to plan just a little bit ahead to have these that they want for their utilization," said Skoe, who's against any Sunday sales.

The Senate overwhelmingly defeated an amendment that would allow liquor stores to sell on Sundays.

Also out of luck: Late night and early morning partiers during Major League Baseball's All-Star Game festivities in Minneapolis.

The liquor bill would have allowed bars to apply to stay open later around the All-Star Game, which will be played at Target Field July 15.

Without a bill, the bars will have to adhere to a normal closing time, rather than the hoped-for 4 a.m. closing.

Metzen said he'd continue to look for ways to revive the liquor bill without the growler provision.

However, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said there's no guarantee that the liquor bill will resurface in the Senate in the final 12 days of session.

He also warned that taprooms pushing for growler sales may lose their bid to open on Sundays, which is also included in the liquor bill.

"They're likely to get nothing out of this session," said Bakk, DFL-Cook. "That's a decision that they'll have to make, whether the growlers are worth losing the Sunday taproom sales."

The House liquor bill includes the Sunday growler provision. The House author said earlier this week that he was waiting to see what action the Senate would take before deciding whether he'll move the bill with the growler provision in it.