A proposed five-year contract to stop lobbying will set a negative precedent.
It’s possible that efforts to relax the restrictions placed on Minnesota’s craft beer makers and distillers could occur this year during the Minnesota Legislature.
However, there’s a catch.
In exchange for greater flexibility when selling growlers, as well as other types of beers, together with larger bottles of spirits distilled changes that the traditional lobby has long opposed for liquor, Craft distillers and brewers would have to accept an initial five-year period of moratorium before seeking any further modifications to the liquor laws.
There’s more. In a bizarre arrangement that would involve eight of the most dominant players, they must go beyond the verbal agreement. The draft document was a written draft created by an attorney from the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers that would require all players to “actively and openly oppose any plan … connected to alcohol consumption” during that time.
The organizations include those that represent licensed liquor municipalities, liquor stores for municipal use, craft brewers, beer wholesalers, and the distillers guild wholesalers of wine and spirits and members of the Teamsters union.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Zach Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, facilitated the deal and told an editor that he’s doing everything to bring all parties to join. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, is known for his insistence that amendments to the liquor laws are almost unanimous among the largest groups. “It’s been proven that he’s keen to ensure a complete consensus between all stakeholders,” Stephenson said.
This, unfortunately, means that one person is left with no choice but to be cold, not just for a moment and for the near to come. Convenience stores and smaller grocers are allowed to sell 3.2 beers. Minnesota is the only state in America that has such a restriction. That’s a problem. Soon, there will be a very small amount of 3.2 beer for sale. In 2011, Molson Coors became the most recent producer to close its 3.2 lines.
Lonnie McQuirter, the owner of the 36 Lyn Refuel in Minneapolis, said he’s transformed his convenience store and gas station into a place that sells locally-sourced food items and wants to achieve the same thing for wine, craft beer and liquor.
“We are feeling a bit excluded and ostracized from the discussion,” McQuirter told an editor. “I’d like to get a solid license for beer so that I can display a well-curated selection of local craft beer. There’s no shortage of top producers in the area … And there’s plenty of pride surrounding this.”
Stephenson stated that he’s been to distilleries and breweries “from Bemidji to New Ulm” and has spoken to all major groups. He explained that wine and beer in grocery stores were intentionally not included in the budget “because if the test is a complete consensus on that the test, it will never be achieved. Stores like Munis and liquor stores see it as a serious threat.”
However, big-box retailers like Target, Walmart and Cub Foods already have the money to construct liquor stores adjacent to their entrances. A lot of them have already done it. In the present, all left are smaller stores with a not practical store.
Stephenson states in his report that “cease-fire,” as he refers to it, isn’t an obligation for the Legislature Stephenson, nor could Stephenson be among the signers. “I can still be a witness to bill after bill,” he said. “This is a contract between wholesalers and craftspeople that they will not compete with one another over five years. This is an extremely crucial aspect of the agreement.”
One of the changes made in the bill is a production cap that will limit growler sales to breweries that produce less than 20,000 barrels and will be increased up to 150,000 barrels. At present, of 9000 craft breweries in the U.S., only five in Minnesota are prohibited from selling growlers directly to customers. They’re among Minnesota’s most popular breweries: Surly, Castle Danger, Summit, Fulton and Schell’s.
Lon Larson, Co-owner of Castle Danger, would welcome the new arrangement. “A significant amount of work was put into it,” he told an editor. However, Larson, who is part of the Alliance of Minnesota Craft Brewers, was shocked by the development of the written contract. “I’m uncertain why this is needed,” he said. In addition to the attorney’s author, He said that “I do not believe that anyone else identified were even informed” that the file existed before when it was published. Minnesota Public Radio obtained a document draft in preparation for an article.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board strongly favoured “Free the Growler” legislation for 2021. It also tends the handshake agreement major groups seem to have reached this year and Stephenson’s resolve to reach an agreement.
However, the signed contract is not a good idea and must be discarded. It’s normal to desire guarantees against any further “asks,” but such are the rules of democracy and the Legislature itself. If the plan is successful, it is one that many others will try to emulate. What next? Health care? Education? Agriculture?
Larson stated it was the Alliance of Minnesota Craft Brewers has consistently said that if the legislation were passed into legal, “we would agree not to pursue any further legislative modifications” in the time frame that was agreed upon. “I am aware that the Craft Brewers Guild has made the similar assertion.”
This should be enough. If they did in the opposite direction, all other groups could be entitled to voice their displeasure in a loud manner. Legal agreements that demand the active opposition of any changes to liquor laws in the future seem intended to compel unanimity in closing small grocery stores and convenience stores. That is not right.