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Regulations for liquor industry

Published (3/9/2012)
By Erin Schmidtke
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The House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee reviewed legislation March 7 that would regulate the alcohol industry in Minnesota. Both bills were laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus liquor bill.

HF2459, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R-Woodbury), would create licensure guidelines for wine educators. These educators teach others about the different aspects of wine, as well as how to taste and order it.

Jennifer Chou, who worked with Kieffer to develop the bill, is a wine educator at Angel Share Wine Partners. She hopes the licensure requirements outlined in the bill will “weed out anyone who’s not serious about wine.”

Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield) questioned the need for a $250 license fee for educators. She compared that fee to the

$60 she paid for a five-year license as a teacher. Kieffer argued that the bill was necessary to regulate the industry, despite her reluctance to create barriers in business.

Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) sponsors the companion, SF2337, which awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), HF2432 would allow liquor stores to sell beer in growlers, if that beer is only otherwise available in a keg.

Joe Bagnoli, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association and the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association, said the bill would help small brewers sell a wider range of products. Bagnoli said that would boost the craft beer industry, which is rapidly growing.

“We’re the epicenter of that and we’re trying to keep it going in Minnesota,” he said.

Tom Agnes, liquor operations manager for the City of Brooklyn Center, added that this would increase both freshness of beer and use of environmentally-friendly packaging, which he says cans don’t provide.

Jason Alvey, owner of specialty beer store Four Firkins, expressed concern that the bill was too limiting for liquor store owners. He hopes the bill will allow for growler sale of beer that is available in other forms besides kegs.

“We want to open it up and have more options available,” Alvey said.

The bill’s companion is SF2087, sponsored by Sen. Chris Gerlach (R-Apple Valley). It awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee.

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