Minnesota breweries push for liquor law changes amid pandemic

A case of Utepils beer.

The push to relax liquor laws for Minnesota breweries, distilleries and much of the hospitality industry is on, and many say it’s a matter of survival right now.  

The Drink Local Economic Recovery Package is a proposal getting a lot of support.

Brewers say what they need to survive is pretty simple.

"We just want to sell products to the consumer in the form they want them," said Dan Justesen with Utepils Brewing.

But while surviving COVID-19 has been tough, Utepils and other breweries say they haven’t been able to do the one thing that can help them: sell cans of beer straight to the consumer.

"Every single brewery in the country was calling growler producers and saying, ‘we need them now,’ and there wasn’t any to be had. Yet, I had coolers full of 64 ounces of beer - they were just in four cans instead of one glass growler," Justesen said.

Now, the push to change this and other liquor laws is growing. Minnesota’s craft breweries, cideries, distilleries, wineries, Hospitality Minnesota and the Independent Restaurant Coalition all formed a huge coalition to support the new bill.

"I think what you’re seeing here today is a really wide coalition of folks coming together in a different way than have come together before," said Rep. Liz Olson.

But, similar bills in the past haven’t even gotten a hearing. The pushback comes from retailers and distributors who have concerns it will hurt their bottom line.

Justesen said he gets that, but he also said there doesn’t need to be winners and losers.

"If you accept the premise that it’s a zero sum and that everybody’s fighting over the same piece of pie, we just end up fighting each other. But, if you can get beyond that and think what has craft beer and craft wine and craft distilleries done, we’ve actually created a bigger and bigger pie that everybody can participate in," he said.

It's unclear if the proposal will gain traction, for now it's a conversation.