I offered an amendment to the Liquor Omnibus Bill, which allowed breweries to sell their beer in various size cans and bottles. Current MN Law only allows breweries to sell beer from their breweries in half gallon growlers and 23.4 Oz cans (exact sizes only). Other states do not have such a regulation.
Of the 170+ breweries in MN, 30% have canning lines and distribution to liquor stores in place - 70% of breweries do not have canning lines (12 or 16 oz cans). I offered this amendment last year with full support of small breweries and the MN Craft Brewers Association - in other words - they wanted this flexibility to help grow their businesses. The Teamsters Union fought hard against the amendment and when I wouldn't withdraw it, they had leadership pull all liquor bills so I couldn't amend them.
This year, breweries are really hurting since Governor Walz has shut down their tap rooms and only allowed curbside pickup. What makes this mandate worse, is only ONE company makes 23.5 Oz cans and they are now out of stock until the fall. Due to the supply chain disruptions, glass growlers are also in short supply. Supply chains have been disrupted. Without action on loosening restrictions, many breweries will not survive.
The Teamsters again opposes this amendment for fear breweries will sell 12 packs of beer and not distribute to liquor stores. However, this concern does not hold much weight, as existing off-sale and production caps would still apply: 750 barrels annual off-sale cap and 20,000 annual production cap for off-sale. The self-distribution cap is also set to 20,000 bbl/annually so any breweries who are not yet distributing by that point would need to contract with a wholesaler.
This simple deregulation would allow consumers to purchase craft beer from breweries in smaller packaging, allow struggling breweries the ability to operate during these difficult times. It would also allow breweries to make their own business decisions and have more control over negotiating pricing for their packaging. Finally, it would allow small breweries the ability to slowly grow and expand their canning lines, before making the jump into distributing to liquor stores.
This amendment was about freedom for small businesses and consumers. Unfortunately, it did not pass. The opposition by the Teamsters union and larger craft breweries who already distribute beer, exemplified the power money and lobbyists have in Minnesota politics. I will continue to work to reform policy in this area to help our craft brewery industry recover from the economic contraction caused by the Peacetime Emergency.
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