On May 1, 2015, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed S.F. No. 1238, colloquially known as the 2015 “Omnibus Liquor Bill.” The new law implemented five new and significant changes to existing Minnesota liquor laws, including the following:
One – Growler Law
Effective immediately, Minnesota breweries which produce less than 20,000 barrels per year and thus are permitted under existing laws to sell 64 ounce containers known as “growlers” are now allowed to sell growlers for off-sale consumption on Sundays, subject to approval by the municipality in which the brewery is located. This change faced strong opposition in the 2014 Legislature and was omitted from last year’s omnibus bill. (See Minn. Stat. §340A.22, Subd. 6d.)
Two – Microdistillery Bottle Sales
Minnesota microdistilleries, who previously could only sell cocktails for on-premises consumption in approved “cocktail rooms,” now may sell one 375 milliliter bottle per customer per day for off-premises consumption, provided that the off-sale hours must conform to the hours of sale for retail off-sale licensees (i.e., liquor stores) in the licensing municipality, and no brand may be sold at the microdistillery unless it is also available for distribution by wholesalers. (See Minn. Stat. §340A.22, Subd. 3.) This change also took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signing of the bill.
Three – Powdered Alcohol
The Legislature prohibited the sale of so-called “powdered alcohol” until June 1, 2016, and the Legislature required further testimony from the Director of the Division of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement as to whether current liquor laws can be adequately enforced with regard to the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of powdered alcohol, and testimony from the Commissioner of Health as to whether there is a potential for greater abuse of an addiction to powdered alcohol relative to malt liquor, wine and distilled spirits, with testimony and recommendations to be provided not later than December 7, 2015. (See S.F. No. 1238, Section 13.)
Four – Brewpubs
Brewpubs, which have heretofore been prohibited from selling their beers at the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild’s booth in the State Fair Agriculture building, will be allowed to do so starting with the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. (See S.F. No. 1238, Section 14.)
Five – Sunday Start Time
Effective July 1, 2015, a restaurant, club, bowling center, or hotel with a seating capacity for at least 30 people and which holds an on-sale intoxicating liquor license may now commence sales of intoxicating liquor starting at 8 a.m. on Sundays (the prior law permitted sales starting at 10 a.m.). The motivation for this change came from bars and restaurants seeking an earlier start time for Sunday bloody mary sales. (See Minn. Stat. §340A.504, Subd. 3.)
The One That Got Away – Sunday Off-Sale Liquor Sales
A major change which was not ultimately included in this year’s omnibus bill, despite the support of an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans, was a repeal of the ban on Sunday off-sale liquor sales. Although several repeal bills were introduced in both the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives, there were no committee votes on any of the proposals (although the House did hold an “informational hearing” on the subject). An amendment to S.F. No. 1238 was introduced in the Senate which would have provided for a full repeal of the ban, but that amendment was defeated by a vote of 35-28. An amendment offered in the House by Rep. Jenifer Loon would have permitted municipalities to determine whether or not to permit off-sale liquor sales on Sundays was defeated by a vote of 75-57. Despite the defeat in both houses, supporters of the repeal were buoyed by the fact that the votes in each house were closer than previous ones.