If you’re a Minnesotan, unless you’ve been in a coma the last few months, by now you know that the battle to repeal the state’s ban on Sunday liquor sales ended in defeat at the hands of special interests at the Capitol.
When it comes to Minnesota’s Prohibition-era liquor laws, however, even incremental changes should be hailed as victories. Here’s a summary of the changes that Minnesota’s breweries and distilleries did get:
- Even though the Teamsters’ last minute lobbying efforts killed the Sunday sales compromise that would have allowed Minnesota breweries to sell growlers on Sundays, the breweries ARE now able to open on Sundays, subject to approval by the applicable municipality. In other words, breweries can open, give tours and sell beer for on-premises consumption.
- Minnesota’s burgeoning microdistillery industry also swung for the fences this session, seeking cocktail rooms and limited self-distribution rights (as the law stands now, distilleries must use a distributor to sell their products; unlike the breweries, there is no self-distribution exception based on a lower volume of product manufactured). They ended up going 1-for-2. Cocktail rooms are now legal – subject, of course, to the municipality – but no bottles may be sold for off-premises consumption. Also, for those breweries that are also distilling, they cannot have a taproom and a cocktail room. It’s one or the other.
- Prior to this year’s session, it was an open question as to whether one brewery could give a refill in another brewery’s growler. The law did not explicitly prohibit or permit the practice. Now, the law has been clarified to state that a brewery may offer refills in another brewery’s growler; they are not, however, required to do so.
- Another open issue was to what extent can homebrewers offer samples of their beer to the public if they are not charging for such samples (as Federal and state law is quite clear that in order to sell beer one must have the appropriate licenses). The new law provides that beer may be removed from the premises where made for use at organized affairs, exhibitions, or competitions, including, but not limited to, homemaker’s contests, tastings, or judging. The new law defines “tastings” as events where the general public may sample unlicensed naturally fermented fruit juices or beer. There are a handful of “health and safety” provisions attached to the permission to offer samples. First, the beverage must be made and transported in containers and equipment that shall not allow the migration of toxic substances. Further, public notice must be given in writing or on signage at the tasting. The notice shall include disclosure that the unlicensed naturally fermented fruit juices or beer being offered is homemade and not subject to state inspection, and may be consumed by persons over the age of 21 at their own risk. The notice must include the name and address of the person who processed and bottled the beverage.
That’s it. Maybe not so impressive at first glance, but considering that less than five years ago breweries could not have taprooms and the license fee for a microdistillery was $30,000 (it’s now $1,000.00 thanks to a provision included in the taproom bill), small changes can have big consequences for the industry.