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Conference committee toasts deal on omnibus liquor bill

(Photo by Paul Battaglia)

Backers of “Free the Growler” may soon be able to celebrate with a large cold one.

A provision that would raise the cap on growler sales is included in the omnibus liquor bill conference committee report approved 10-0 by conferees Thursday.

Sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), the report awaits House and Senate action.

The growler cap was one of the higher profile provisions of HF2767/SF3008*.

Currently, breweries that produce more than 20,000 barrels annually cannot sell growlers onsite. The proposed legislation would increase the limit to 150,000 barrels and include the state’s six largest craft breweries – Surly, Summit, Lift Bridge, Fulton, Schell’s and Castle Danger.

The report also addresses a previous issue with the Coleman Act that prohibits exclusive contracts in the sale of hard spirits by treating in-state and out-of-state manufacturers similarly. This provision was in both House and Senate versions.

While the Senate bill mostly ended there, the House version included many other provisions: expanded off-sale options to very small breweries, cocktail rooms at all distilleries and the sale of wine and beer at town ball games. Each are in the conference committee agreement.

Not included at the end is establishment of a liquor regulation advisory council. The aim was to have a body made up of equal members of wholesalers, retailers and producers to advise the Legislature on changes to liquor laws. 

Also dropped was a provision that would have allowed residents to have more wine shipped to them, taxed similarly to wine purchased in state, and one allowing 17-year-olds to serve liquor.

Provisions included in the final version would allow:

  • cities and counties to issue seven-day temporary liquor licenses for county fairs;
  • extended hours for alcohol sales during live World Cup soccer matches;
  • special on-sale liquor licenses for events in Willmar, Sauk Rapids, St. Paul, Rochester, Alexandria and St. Cloud; and
  • Anoka to create an outdoor social district where consumption of alcohol is permitted.

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