Senate tax committee kills Sunday growler sales

Dangerous Man Brewing Co. owner Rob Miller fills a growler at the Minneapolis, Minn. brewery Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News File

The Senate Tax Committee today removed a provision in a liquor bill to allow craft taprooms to sell growlers of beer on Sunday.

The measure would have opened the door to allowing a form of Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. The move came after officials representing the Teamsters Union, which delivers alcohol on behalf of beer and liquor wholesalers, said Sunday growler sales would force them to reopen their contracts with distributors.

Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, said he removed the measure because he doesn’t support Sunday sales at all.

“Sunday sales is Sunday sales,” Skoe said. “They were going to do an incremental approach. This is the first step, and next year they’ll be looking at six packs; and then they’ll want cases, and pretty soon they’ll go beyond.”

The Senate taxes committee removed the language on a divided voice vote.

Advocates were pushing to allow taprooms to sell growlers on Sunday to help an emerging industry.

The sponsor of the provision, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said he’s disappointed by the committee’s vote. He said he won’t drop his push to allow Sunday sales.

“If people outside the building think that a state that can have marriage equality and probably medical marijuana but you can’t buy a beer on Sunday think that’s not right, then they need to make that voice heard in the fall election. We’ll come back and instead of just doing baby steps we’ll do full repeal of Sunday sales.”

Clint Roberts, Executive Director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, says he’s disappointed that a provision allowing  Sunday growler sales was removed from the Senate omnibus Liquor Bill. Tom Scheck/MPR News

“Those big fermenter tanks are expensive. Running a brewery is very expensive,” said Clint Roberts, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. “These are small businesses and this is a Minnesota-made product so every little bit counts.”

The bill would still allow taprooms to open on Sunday and sell alcohol on site. They just would not be allowed to sell containers of beer for customers to take off site.

Asked why he wouldn’t continue to push for Sunday growler sales, Reinert suggested other lawmakers have told him it won’t fly.

“There are other things that I care about that are in play this session and at the end of the day, personal relationships around the Capitol matter,” he said. “I’m not looking to try and pick fights with people, especially on my own team, as I try to work on some other things that are important to the city of Duluth.”

Ed Reynoso, political director with the Teamsters Union declined comment for this story but he told MPR News last month that an unnamed liquor distributor suggested that permitting Sunday growler sales would allow them to reopen their employment contracts with the union. Reynoso said the union wasn’t willing to take that risk because it could have put bread and butter issues like wages and benefits back on the table.

Today’s committee action ends speculation as to whether the overall liquor bill was in jeopardy.

Skoe had said earlier that he wasn’t certain if he would hold a hearing on the bill because of the growler dispute. Lobbyists worried that could kill other measures including a extension of alcohol sales at TCF Bank football stadium at the University of Minnesota.

The growler provision is still included in the House liquor bill. The chief House sponsor, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he was waiting to see how the Senate dealt with the bill before acting on the House version.


Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, is the chief sponsor of the liquor bill in the House. He said he’s going to watch the debate in the Senate before deciding on how to proceed in the House. But Atkins said he isn’t willing to propose a bill on the House floor that is controversial.

“If it’s the kind of thing that is super controversial and is going to potentially take down the whole bill, then I’d rather not do that because I have provisions of 14 members that focus on everything from a hockey team in Richfield to a golf course in Brooklyn Center to the TCF stadium provision and I’d rather not have all of those provisions taken down as a result of one controversial item.”

  • crm114

    Remember to punch a Teamster today.

    • Why? The distributors are the ones threatening to re-open contracts. Punch them.

      • spaz06

        Without any publishing of which distributor that actually is, the complaint sounds like BS. There is a very small chance that Sunday sales of a product that is not transported by teamsters would change the contract (growlers must be sold at the point of manufacture). I’m sure the union sees it as a slippery slope issue. That some Sunday sales now will lead to more later, and the later sales will affect the contract.

        • I agree that growler sales should have little to no effect on Teamster contracts but that doesn’t mean the distributors wouldn’t use the threat. They’re the ones who are worried more about sales expansions since if they had to start paying workers to deliver on Sundays, their costs rise. I doubt the union would have too much trouble steering the work towards members who actually wanted to work those hours.

          • spaz06

            The issue is, under growler sales, there would be NO deliveries, anywhere, on Sundays. The product is already at the point of sale.

          • Brandon

            Exactly. The distributor’s argument is moot. The real issue is these craft breweries are slowly chipping away at the “big-beer” industry and it is hurting distributors. I thought we were a capitalistic, free-market nation? Apparently only the campaign $ is what these politicians listen to.

  • “Sunday sales is Sunday sales,” Skoe said. “They were going to do an incremental approach. This is the first step, and next year they’ll be looking at six packs; and then they’ll want cases, and pretty soon they’ll go beyond.”

    Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!

  • echoegami

    They can dig in their heals all they want but this change is coming and they would do well to prepare for the change rather than continue to be the unpopular minority voice.

  • Pearly

    “The Senate taxes committee removed the language on a divided voice vote”
    Hey blogger who voted to kill it?

    • Rod Skoe, the committee chair. Interestingly, his Senate bio claims “economic development” as one of his interests. Ha!

      • echoegami

        “Economic development” is only for those developments that he likes.

        • Pearly

          Developments backed by the Teamsters

      • Brandon

        My favorite statistic is Craft beer accounts for a little over 1% of beer production in America yet is responsible for creating 95% of the jobs in the brewing industry. These Craft beer breweries are major job creators and it is a booming industry. Looks like Big Corporations and Big Unions won this round.

      • Brandon

        Did you also see in his bio that his occupation is “Teamster” – can’t make that shit up.

  • Jeff

    It’s time remind these legislators that the will of the people is more important than the special interests. I don’t care and the vast, vast majority of people don’t care about the union contracts being up for debate…we want Sunday liquor sales. The fact that we can’t even a very small change done is the real problem, remind the legislators in November that the will of the people matters more than these interest groups.

  • Let’s see. A block down the street I can get a beer, a cocktail, or a glass of wine on Sunday. The bars are open so obviously drinking on Sunday is not the issue. Follow the money. When will the unions start working on public relations and create some public support instead of shooting themselves in the foot.

  • Doug Duwenhoegger

    Do you know you can go into any restaurant buy a bottle of wine on Sunday. Have them open it, recork it and you can walk right out the door with it. Well you should pay but how is this not Sunday sales?

  • Ezra Bennett

    Ermm…Mr. teamster…

    Allowing a brewery to sell THEIR OWN BEER out of THEIR OWN TAPROOM doesn’t mean you’ll have to get off your asses on Sunday to deliver it.

  • Guest

    Rod Skoe?

    To quote George H W Bush when asking about Paul Wellstone: “Who is this chickens**t?”

  • Jamison S.

    Perhaps some grassroots movements will spring up to make sure these officials never make it out of their next primary season, let alone election. Time to make this an issue in the upcoming campaigns. The list of the Tax committee members is public, be interested to see who was for/against.

  • Mark in Ohio

    You know, I wonder what the legal fraction of hours per week you can legally sell liquor in MN is, and how different it is between selling drinks and selling bottles. I think that there is a certain irrationality in something being illegal one day or hour, and legal the next.

  • RobFromMN

    Ed Reynoso sounds like a weak minded fool. I’d be willing to bet there is not a single person who goes and buys a growler from their local brewpub and then goes to the chain liquor store to buy their Budweiser.

  • SlapHappy

    Ironically, the growler issue has nothing to do with taxes. The only reason this was brought before the tax committee is because of the provision to provide excise tax exemption for farm wineries. Hey Skoe, overreach much??