SAINT PAUL – Today, Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth) and Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL – Minneapolis) introduced legislation to help Minnesota craft breweries and distilleries weather the downturn in business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill creates economic opportunity by temporarily relaxing rigid restrictions on off-sale beverages, allowing for limited to-go sales from taprooms and cocktail rooms.
“As we work to ensure all Minnesotans can be healthy and safe during this pandemic, our small businesses are experiencing economic turmoil. Just as the industries have turned a corner to become mainstream in our state, craft brewers and distillers are now fighting for their survival,” Rep. Olson said. “This bill is a reasonable and temporary step to help businesses stay afloat by offering their product to loyal customers until normal operations can resume.”
"With 12 breweries and 4 distilleries, 60A is the heart of Minnesota's craft brewery and distillery industry,” Rep. Jordan said. “It is clear these businesses need the Legislature's help to weather the COVID-19 crisis. This temporary measure to allow them to sell 4 and 6 packs for breweries and 750ml bottles for distilleries is necessary to keep our craft breweries and distilleries in business and thriving for years to come."
The bill allows craft breweries with taprooms to sell up to a six-pack of 12oz containers or a four-pack of 16oz containers per customer, in addition to growlers and other vessels already permitted. Sales under the provision would be permitted during the peacetime emergency and for a 60-day period thereafter. For craft distilleries with cocktail rooms, a 750ml bottle – or two 375ml bottles – can be sold during the peacetime emergency, plus a period of 60 additional days.
"We want to thank our legislators for taking emergency action to protect Minnesota’s local alcohol industry,” said Joel Vikre, owner of Vikre Distillery in Duluth. “Minnesota distilleries and breweries make a big difference on jobs, agriculture and tourism in the state, but without access to market many small businesses, including our own, will not be able to survive.”
“Craft brewers are sitting on inventories of perishable beer, and the supply of 64oz glass growlers and 750mL aluminum cans, or ‘crowlers,’ is dwindling. Craft breweries need temporary relief in order to help clear out existing inventories of aging packaged or ready-to-be-packaged beer," said Matt Schwandt, President and CEO of Bauhaus Brew Labs in Minneapolis. “Faced with the prospect of running out of crowlers or growlers while the shutdown remains in effect, breweries need another option if they are to survive. Allowing breweries to temporarily sell 4-packs and 6-packs of their beer in their taprooms will help considerably with mitigating the losses Minnesota’s craft brewers are currently facing.
Additionally, the bill extends the recently enacted law allowing customers to buy beer or wine with takeout food orders. Currently, this law is set to expire at the conclusion of the executive order prohibiting dine-in restaurant service; Rep. Olson and Rep. Jordan’s bill would extend this period 60 days.
“Business is hard during the best of times, and this is not the best of times. As a small microbrewery, reliant on dine-in customers, we have been especially hard hit by this health and economic crisis,” said Ben Hugus, owner of Ursa Minor Brewing in Duluth. “We have been forced to pivot to curbside options in order to keep our amazing staff employed and our business afloat. This bill, allowing us to sell 4-packs direct to consumer, would be a huge help to us and our efforts to keep business going and our amazing team working. We love our community, and we are doing everything we can to get through this unprecedented time so we can continue to serve our neighbors on the other side of all of this.”
Minneapolis and Duluth have both experienced a surge in craft breweries and distilleries in recent years resulting in tremendous local economic benefits. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey both lent their voices to the effort to ensure the continued success of these small, locally owned businesses.
“Craft brewers and distilleries across the state represent the big vision and bold work ethic that Minnesota is all about,” Mayor Larson said. “We can help them stay in business, retain workers, safely open storefronts and give back to their communities with this specific and time-limited expansion to sell their work. Let’s support these amazing entrepreneurs and small business owners.”
“It was Minneapolis entrepreneurs who sparked the craft brewery and distillery boom, resulting in thousands of jobs across Minnesota,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. “These businesses have become household names and neighborhood mainstays - hugely important assets to gathering and celebration. The proposed emergency relief measures will help ensure they continue serving cities like Minneapolis after this crisis and well into the future.”
The legislation, which will be referred to the House Commerce Committee, can be accessed here.