Amendment removed, liquor omnibus bill passes Minnesota House

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a liquor omnibus bill on Thursday afternoon // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Late Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its version of the liquor omnibus bill (S.F. No. 444), which includes provisions for craft breweries, microdistilleries, and farm wineries.

Earlier this week, the bill was tabled after an amendment was successfully introduced by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL–Brooklyn Center) that removed most of the provisions for craft breweries, microdistilleries, and farm wineries from consideration.

On Thursday, the bill was taken back up by the House and the Hilstrom amendment was reconsidered before being struck down in a 74-57 vote. The House then went on to pass the bill by a margin of 79-54. The bill will now head to conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.

The House version of the bill includes a provision introduced by Rep. Drew Christensen (R-Savage), which raises the production ceiling at which breweries are allowed to sell their beer for off-sale consumption from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels annually and raises the limit on the amount of beer breweries can sell directly to consumers for off-sale consumption from 500 to 750 barrels annually. Additionally, the bill allows brewers to sell packaged beer for off-sale consumption in any vessel from 650-milliliter (21.9 ounces) and two liters (67.6 ounces). Currently, brewers are only allowed to sell off-sale beer in 64-ounce growlers and 750-milliliter vessels.

“This law put an unnecessarily restrictive ban on one of Minnesota’s fastest growing industries,” said Rep. Christensen. “Small breweries and brew pubs have brought new jobs to Minnesota and grown our economy. We should lift the cap on small these small businesses and allow them to thrive.”

For microdistilleries, the House bill allows them to operate cocktail rooms on Sundays and eases the restrictions on selling their liquor for off-sale consumption. Currently, microdistilleries can only sell one 375-milliliter bottle of liquor per customer per day from their cocktail room. The new language in the bill would allow microdistilleries to sell any number of 50-milliliter, 375-milliliter, or 750-milliliter bottles to customers, though off-premise sales at a distillery are limited to 8,000 gallons of spirits per year.

The bill also introduces a new requirement for microdistilleries wishing to operate cocktail rooms, which states at least 50 percent of their annual production must be processed and distilled on premises. Farm wineries are allowed to produce and sell spirits directly to consumers, but a similar provision in the bill would require at least 50 percent of the distilled spirit to be processed and distilled on premises.

Finally, the House bill included a provision that would allow any jurisdictions that issue liquor licenses under Minnesota State Statute Chapter 340A to issue special permits for service of alcohol through extended hours lasting until 4:00am each day during the 2018 Super Bowl. The bill previously had language limiting extended hours to Ramsey and Hennepin counties, but the version passed yesterday opens it up to the entire state.

All of the above provisions, save for the Sunday cocktail room provision, are either not included or differ from the Senate version of the bill, teeing up a potentially difficult conference committee process to come to a final version of the bill.