Governor Walz should allow Minnesota’s breweries, bars, and restaurants to sell alcohol in any size package for at-home consumption

As I wrote last week:

The shutdown of large sections of Minnesota’s economy to fight the spread of the Coronavirus has been bringing the best out of our state’s business people. Small breweries have been doing curbside pickup and family restaurants have been doing takeout in a bid to cover their fixed costs and stay afloat.

Sadly, some of them are running into regulatory barriers which are impeding their ability to find innovative ways to survive this crisis.

Governor Walz should take regulatory action

The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild – which represents the state’s craft brewers – is asking for all breweries, bars, and restaurants to sign on to a letter to Governor Walz asking him to enact an Executive Order for Regulatory Relief. The order would:

…allow broader off-sale options for breweries, bars, and restaurants in Minnesota. This has recently been done in California. We would work with the [the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol Gambling Enforcement Division] to ensure we maintain public safety while allowing breweries, bars, and restaurants to sell alcohol to their customers in any size package for at-home consumption.

Many Minnesota breweries, bars, and restaurants are sitting on perishable product that they are not legally allowed to sell under current regulations. This temporary regulatory relief would allow them to sell that product, rather than wasting thousands of dollars.

Craft brewing is a Minnesota success story

In the Winter 2019 edition of our magazine, Thinking Minnesota, I wrote about what an economic success story craft brewing had been in Minnesota:

In 2007, there were fewer than 10 breweries and brewpubs statewide. A decade later, the total number has reached over 170 (an increase of 1,600 percent). In 2018 alone, 29 new breweries and brewpubs opened, accounting for 17 percent of Minnesota’s estimated 170 total. While the craft beer boom has been a nationwide phenomenon, Minnesota has been something of a market leader. It now ranks 13th nationally for breweries per capita and 10th highest for craft beer consumption. Each adult Minnesotan (21+) drinks, on average, five gallons of craft beer each year.

And, while in 2016, about half the new breweries were in the Twin Cities:

…a year later, the majority of new breweries were in Greater Minnesota: Portage Brewing Company in Walker near Leech Lake, population just short of 1,000; Ashby Brewing Company in Ashby near Fergus Falls, population of 436; and Karst Brewing in Fountain near Lanesboro, population of 413. 

These entrepreneurs and small business people have been ordered to close their businesses for the good of public health. If, like me, you are looking forward to heading out for a drink or dinner when this is all over, we have to hope that they are still there when we we do. By enacting an Executive Order for Regulatory Relief which would allow broader off-sale options for breweries, bars, and restaurants, Gov. Walz could help ensure that that happens.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.