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Sunday growler sales stripped from liquor bill

The Senate Tax Committee on Monday removed a provision in a liquor bill to allow craft taprooms to sell growlers of beer on Sundays.

The measure would have opened the door to allowing a form of Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. The move came after officials representing the Teamsters Union, which delivers alcohol on behalf of beer and liquor wholesalers, said Sunday growler sales would force them to reopen their contracts with distributors.

Senate Tax Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said he removed the measure because he doesn’t support Sunday sales at all.

“Sunday sales is Sunday sales,” Skoe said. “They were going to do an incremental approach. This is the first step, and next year they’ll be looking at six packs; and then they’ll want cases, and pretty soon they’ll go beyond.”

The Senate Tax Committee removed the language on a divided voice vote.

Advocates were pushing to allow taprooms to sell growlers on Sunday to help an emerging industry.

The sponsor of the provision, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said he’s disappointed by the committee’s vote. He said he won’t drop his push to allow Sunday sales.

“If people outside the building think that a state that can have marriage equality and probably medical marijuana but you can’t buy a beer on Sunday think that’s not right, then they need to make that voice heard in the fall election. We’ll come back and instead of just doing baby steps we’ll do full repeal of Sunday sales.”

Clint Roberts, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, says he’s disappointed that a provision allowing Sunday growler sales was removed from the Senate omnibus liquor bill.

“Those big fermenter tanks are expensive. Running a brewery is very expensive,” said Roberts. “These are small businesses and this is a Minnesota-made product, so every little bit counts.”

The bill still would allow taprooms to open on Sunday and sell alcohol on-site. They just would not be allowed to sell containers of beer to take off-site.

Ed Reynoso, political director with the Teamsters Union, declined to comment for this story, but he said in an interview last month that an unnamed liquor distributor suggested that permitting Sunday growler sales would allow them to reopen their employment contracts with the union.

Reynoso said the union wasn’t willing to take that risk because it could have put bread and butter issues such as wages and benefits back on the table.

Monday’s committee action ends speculation as to whether the overall liquor bill was in jeopardy.

Skoe had said earlier that he wasn’t certain if he would hold a hearing on the bill because of the growler dispute. Lobbyists worried that could kill other measures including an extension of alcohol sales at the TCF Bank football stadium at the University of Minnesota.

The growler provision is still included in the House liquor bill. The chief House sponsor, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he was waiting to see how the Senate dealt with the bill before acting on the House version.