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With Super Bowl approaching, House passes changes to liquor laws

By Ricky Campbell
U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the host stadium for next February's Super Bowl. The House passed an omnibus liquor bill May 18 that would extend bar closing hours across the state on Feb. 5, 2018, the day of the game. House Photography file photo

A harbinger to the thousands of football enthusiasts expected to flood into Minneapolis for next year’s Super Bowl game, HF68/ SF444*, sponsored by Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), would make numerous changes to the state’s liquor laws, including extending closing times throughout the state to 4 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2018.

Under the bill, Vikings’ fans could also sip an adult beverage while watching the team at its under-construction Eagan facility, if the City of Eagan permits.

The bill, passed 79-54 as amended, now returns to the Senate.

The bill wasn’t without contention, however. Provisions expanding how much breweries can sell on-site – which sunk the Floor debate earlier this week – drew the ire of some lawmakers who believe the changes would deal a blow to the state’s three-tier regulatory system that governs manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) argued again for her amendment to scrap the expansion, but unlike the successful Monday vote, the chamber rejected the amendment on a 74-57 vote. Hilstrom and her colleagues said there have been too many exceptions and expansions to liquor laws in recent years.

“However, if we’re going to change the way we regulate liquor in Minnesota, we have to do it in a global way and not pick winners and losers,” Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) said.

From the onset of Thursday’s debate, Hoppe said he wanted to send the bill to a conference committee. The Legislature has a constitutional deadline of midnight Monday to finish its business.

Under the bill, the Department of Natural Resources could issue a permit to sell liquor at the state-run golf course at Fort Ridgely State Park and the City of New Hope could issue liquor permits for its publicly run golf course, New Hope Village Golf Course.

Other provisions carve out special permits for municipalities. The bill would also require Macalester College’s Springfest to sell only Minnesota made liquor; Minneapolis could expand Upton 43’s liquor permit, which is currently limited because of a city ordinance; and Sartell could issue liquor permits for the Sartell Community Center and Champion Field. 

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