Republican libertarians flay Teamster-coddling DFLers over Sunday liquor sales

Nixing the sale of growlers was the final step in killing efforts to expand Sunday alcohol sales.

The politics of booze may not be of the greatest importance, but it does underscore how “the people’s business” is often conducted in state Capitol back rooms.

On Monday, a very brief Senate Tax Committee meeting stripped an omnibus liquor bill provision allowing Sunday growler sales.

Nixing the sale of growlers — refillable jugs used to transport beer from Minnesota taprooms — was the final step in killing efforts to expand Sunday alcohol sales.

Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, had led the fight to allow Minnesotans to choose going to a liquor store, or at least a taproom, to make a Sunday purchase. Reinert started the session hoping for across-the-board Sunday liquor sales. By this point in the session, he was down to the growlers, which are sold out of those little breweries popping up all over the state.

Reinert has been opposed by members of his own party, who, with a few exceptions, act like Teamsters union puppets when this issue comes up.

The Teamsters worry growler sales will re-open contracts with other liquor establishments. Though union officials did not return requests for comment Tuesday, they annually tag team with the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association — heavily influenced by little Main Street liquor stores — to block Sunday sales.

Tuesday, Republicans of the libertarian stripe had a field day with DFLers.

Sunday sales = higher property taxes?

Three GOP senators — Jeremy Miller, David Osmek, and Branden Petersen — offered a series of amendments to the growler-stripped bill.

First up was Miller, of Winona, who every Sunday sees people in his district go to Iowa or Wisconsin for liquor they can’t buy in Minnesota. He offered an amendment that would allow local officials to determine whether liquor stores could be open.

He took a nice jab at the DFLers’ Teamster-coddling — his amendment prohibited deliveries to liquor stores on Sundays. (Some pols believe Teamsters oppose Sunday openings because it might force weekend work.)

DFLers didn’t have enough class to blush at Miller’s subtle shot. Rather, a couple of them blustered.

Sen. Rod Skoe
Sen. Rod Skoe

For example, there was Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook, the Tax Committee chair.

“If you look across the state,” Skoe said, “you see a lot of municipal liquor stores.”

Those stores, he said, help communities hold property taxes down — but if the stores were to stay up seven days a week, instead of six, they wouldn’t be so profitable, therefore property taxes might go up.

Skoe called for “a study” to see how Sunday sales would affect property taxes.

Sen. James Metzen, DFL, St. Paul, who carried the liquor bill, said that the Miller amendment should not be supported because it had not “been heard in committee.”

To his credit, Metzen managed to keep a straight face, even though it’s obvious that DFLers are concerned about “committee process” only when it’s to their benefit.

Miller’s amendment was voted down — in a bipartisan way, it should be noted. (A substantial number of conservative Republicans oppose Sunday liquor sales on moral/religious grounds.)

‘People should plan ahead’

Next up was Osmek, of Mound, who offered an amendment that would put the growler provision back in the liquor bill.

Again, Metzen rose.

“We have to respect the Tax Committee,” he said.

Other members in the Senate didn’t actually burst out in laughter. But Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, caused a few snickers, even among DFLers.

“The Tax Committee removed this provision in a meeting that lasted 4 minutes, 51 seconds yesterday (Monday) morning,” Thompson noted, adding that there had been very little advance notice of the committee meeting.

Skoe tried to act upset by Thompson’s statement.

“A hearing was held,” Skoe said of his meeting. “There was no testimony.”

Skoe followed that bizarre statement by digging himself into a hole. People shouldn’t need to buy liquor on Sundays, he said: “People should be able to plan just a little ahead.”

This was not a wise thing for a senator to say. It suggested that consumer planning — not Teamster or liquor store pressure — is the problem here.

Some Republicans were nearly foaming at the mouth to get at Skoe’s remark.

Sen. Branden Petersen

Petersen, of Andover, leaped up and offered an amendment to Osmek’s growler amendment. Petersen’s would eliminate the Sunday sales ban entirely.

“We have reached a level of absurdity here,” Petersen said, angrily. “The idea that Sen. Skoe knows better when people should go to the store to buy a legal product is an affront to anybody. … This bill recognizes people are responsible enough to decide when they’ll go to the store to buy a case of beer.”

DFL leaders didn’t just oppose Petersen’s amendment; some Republicans also expressed concern, too.

“I rise in opposition,” said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. “This bill goes too far, too fast.”

(Hmm. “Too far, too fast.” Efforts to open up liquor sales have been around for decades. Minnesota is one of 12 states that does NOT allow Sunday liquor sales. Polls show that more than 60 per cent of Minnesotans want Sunday sales.)

If some Republicans were concerned about opening liquor store doors on Sunday, others took great delight in making DFL leaders uncomfortable.

Miller asked his fellow Republican Petersen: “Senator, is there anything in your amendment that requires liquor stores to be open on Sunday?”

Petersen: “No. This amendment allows business people to go down the scary path of making their own decisions about how to run their business.”

There were a few chuckles in the Senate chamber.

The Petersen amendment was defeated. But it seemed to set the stage for the Osmek’s growler amendment, which passed. Sunday jug sales were alive and well again.

This caused more consternation among DFLers. After quick consultations with some of his fellow travelers, Metzen tabled the liquor bill that now sagged under the weight of the offending growler amendment.

Sports teams want a liquor bill

The reality is that a liquor bill needs to come out of this session. It contains a number of things sports teams want.

For example, during July’s Major League Baseball All Star game, Minneapolis bars want licenses that allow them to remain open until 4 a.m. This bill also expands sales at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium, which for the next two years hosts the Gophers and the Vikings.

So far, the House waited for the Senate to act.

But now the Senate is all twisted up. Before any new action can be taken, DFL senators have to figure out how to make both Teamsters and sports teams happy.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/07/2014 - 08:40 am.

    It’s a matter of principle

    For the conservative republicans it’s a matter of moral and religious principle. For the libertarians it’s the principle of allowing free men to decide for themselves. For the democrats it’s the principle of accommodating special interests and their money.

    • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 05/08/2014 - 04:10 pm.

      “For.. democrats it’s the

      “For.. democrats it’s the principle of accommodating special interests…” Surely you are not suggesting that the republicans are immune from this disease?

    • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 05/09/2014 - 02:42 pm.


      How does anyone’s “moral and religious principle” legitimately affect what other people can or should do? If YOUR religion says you must sit in sackcloth and ashes for an hour each morning, it certainly doesn’t mean that I have to.

  2. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 05/07/2014 - 09:13 am.

    A little too wide of a brush

    @Dennis, I think your brush is a bit too wide when painting generalizations about the left on this issue. There are DFL members who also oppose the bill on moral and religious grounds. And, as the article clearly states, the bill itself is carried by a DFL senator.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/07/2014 - 09:38 am.

    Isn’t It Interesting

    How a debate which seeks to take into account the competing interests of a wide variety of CITIZENS of the state of Minnesota causes derisive laughter from those,…

    who only have one TRUE true constituency: those with lots of money and their wannabe, gonnabe sycophants (Republican legislators among them).

    But, if I remember correctly, our Republican friends, when they ran the legislature, had a much more serious problem.

    When they, themselves, had to make decisions and be accountable for what they decided, it was all WAY too public. They couldn’t figure out how to balance the demands of the libertarian wing of the party, the tea party wing of the party, and what the state Chamber of Commerce leaders wanted,…

    those demands being diametrically opposed to each other,…

    and none of those constituent groups being willing to compromise their most ardent desires,…

    so the Republican legislature was pathetically paralyzed and did NOTHING,…

    (except passing a social injustice Constitutional amendment and a Constitutional amendment designed to keep “those” people (non-Republicans) from voting,…

    evidently the only two things their OWN “special interest” groups would all support.

    Since I’m socially moderate, and not a member of the state Chamber of Commerce, and believe EVERYONE should be able to vote with as few restrictions as possible,…

    I’d much rather see the legislature seeking to balance my interests with those of my fellow citizens, especially including regular working folks and those who occasionally have a drink (even on Sundays), even if it looks a bit messy,…

    than to be left in the position I was when the Republicans were in charge,…

    I and people like me didn’t even have a place at the table,…

    and our ideas and ideals were never even allowed to enter the very limited awareness of those running the legislature at that time,…

    who were far too busy taking the coward’s way out – trying to do things that would pad the pockets of their wealthy benefactors, but doing them in ways that no one would notice or hold them accountable for (“tax cuts” which offer a few pennies to those who are struggling the most,…

    but which overwhelmingly benefit those with the most resources, for instance, while making it impossible for the state government to maintain basic infrastructures and provide adequate services to the rest of the population).

    The legislature may currently be demonstrating the old Will Rogers comment, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”…

    but at least what’s happening is out in the open rather than taking place in quiet rooms where big promises to further pad their pockets can be made to those with all the money out of sight and awareness of the public.

    We may, indeed, cringe a bit at the arguments over what meat, spices, fat and fillers may be added to this year’s legislative sausage,…

    and the Republicans will seek to claim that some of the ingredients in that sausage are secretly toxic and will destroy the state of Minnesota (but will, of course, provide nothing but blather and B.S. if pressed for evidence – are you listening Public Radio? – no one else will do that job – since they aren’t capable of doing, likely not even capable of comprehending evidence),…

    but east least it will BE a sausage,…

    rather than the empty casing provided to the citizens of the State of Minnesota in the completely wasted legislative session when the Republicans were in charge.

  4. Submitted by Charles Spolyar on 05/07/2014 - 10:22 am.

    Taking Skoe’s thoughts to the extreme

    If Muni liquor stores (and the mom and pops) really wanted to make more money we should allow sales ONLY one day a week! Cut the labor costs down 75% (or more) and reinforce that need to plan.

  5. Submitted by Lora Jones on 05/07/2014 - 10:29 am.

    Doug Grow demeans himself

    by so strenuously and stereotypically emphasizing Teamster opposition — and not Licensed Beverage Association opposition — to Sunday sales as THE reason for DFL ambivalence. If my understanding of teamster opposition is accurate, a single line in the bill prohibiting owners from using Sunday sales as a reason for forced, early renegotiation of existing contracts would go a long way towards alleviating their objections. And that’s before we even get to the unfortunate, and deliberately forgotten by Tester, fact that there’s a whole lot of Dems willing to throw unions under the bus when it suits them.

    Seems to me that Licensed Beverage Association opposition is a much bigger obstacle. For one, given both their “localness” and frequent municipal ownership, my guess is they carry more weight with both Dems and (oh so eager to appear moral) Repubs. Mr. Grow may believe that their calculations of Loss of Saturday Sales + Sunday Sales – Employee & Facility Expense will produce a net loss is wrong, but if he’s passionate enough about the subject to devolve into “DFL in pockets of Teamsters” diatribes, perhaps his passion would be better spent re-running the numbers for them.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/07/2014 - 01:11 pm.

      Grow got it right

      It is the Teamsters who have demeaned themselves in this case.

      The DFL is not beholden to the Licensed Beverage Association, so their opposition is no obstacle at all. The DFL does depend on support from the Teamsters, who are doing the work for the Licensed Beverage Association, and so it is the Teamsters (deservedly) getting the blame here.

      Putting aside the idea that attempting to alter the contract terms via legislation is completely absurd, this is the first I have heard of adding language to fix the problem. What I have heard is people asking to see the contract language in question, and not being allowed to. The DFL author of the bill hasn’t seen it. Don’t you think that if the Teamsters were actually interested in fixing the problem that they would have gotten him the contract language? Its a mystery to me how allowing Growler sales at tap rooms (by non-union workers) could possibly affect the Teamsters’ contract anyway.

      I generally vote DFL and am a union supporter, and I bristle at baseless union bashing. But I recognize that criticism of unions is sometimes deserved, and this is one of those times. This is the kind of boneheaded decision that gives unions a bad name, and gives union critics material to use against them. Put the blame on where it belongs here – on the Teamsters leadership.

  6. Submitted by Mac Riddel on 05/07/2014 - 12:29 pm.

    Vote Sunday Sales or find a new job.

    I usually vote for the Democrats as they nearly always vote the same way that I would, but now I’m at an impasse. I no longer care what party they are affiliated with. If they support Sunday Sales, they get my vote. If they don’t, I will make my voice heard and do whatever I can to get people to vote for the other guy/gal regardless of party.

    The Teamsters are dirt and Skoe is their puppet. And it’s not only the DFL that is anti-Sunday sales. My local Republican rep Anna Wills is 100% against it as well. This is not a partisan issue, but a money issue. Candidates need to grow a pair and vote for what their constituents want, not what special interest groups can do for their reelection.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/07/2014 - 02:42 pm.


      So of all the issues that we face, the one that puts it over the top is Sunday liquor sales? To each his own, but I really don’t get the fanaticism over not being able to buy liquor on Sunday. After thirty years, maybe I’m just conditioned to buy my Jack during the week, but of potential things to be outraged about from a legislative session, this wouldn’t even be on the list.

      • Submitted by Bill Casey on 05/07/2014 - 06:12 pm.

        I fully agree that it is ridiculous to hear people say that them not being able to purchase beer on Sunday will dictate who they will vote for. Does the fact that the DFL legislature having passed other meaningful legislation that impacts their live positively matter at all? I guess not if your so narrow minded.

        From what I’ve read in the MPR article, the teamsters have shown the language to legislators, maybe just not Reinert. I’m thinking that Reinert wouldn’t even care if he saw it, he wouldn’t reconsider his position after reading into his derogatory comments about the union and his own DFL leadership.

        This is just a bizarre situation, but should we blame the teamsters for representing their members and using their influence to do so? This is nothing different than what the chamber of commerce or any other organization would do for their members.

        Minnesota, stop and take a step back. Some of you have taken this argument much further than it should be. Buy your booze on the other days available, and stop sounding like a bunch of alcoholics.

        • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/07/2014 - 08:46 pm.

          Blame the Teamsters

          In this case the Teamsters have done just a terrible job representing their members. Whatever benefit they get from helping the retailers is more than offset by the bad publicity and anti-union fodder this kind of dishonest crap creates. They really couldn’t get the contract language to the bill’s author? Either the Teamsters are totally incompetent or they are lying about what the contract says. I suspect its the latter (actually I suspect both) because the idea that Sunday growler sales would affect union contracts is absurd. I expect that language will never see the light of day so we’ll never know.

          If bill fails because the votes aren’t there, so be it. If a bill fails because a group uses its influence and false/secret pretences, that is a bad thing. So yes, we should blame the Teamsters. Instead of defending this garbage, union supporters should hold the Teamsters to a higher standard.

  7. Submitted by Rich Crose on 05/07/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    Simple Solution

    Every time you go to Hudson on a Sunday, take a picture of yourself holding a 12 pack in front of the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign and send it to your legislator.

  8. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 05/07/2014 - 09:00 pm.


    One of the weird things I had to get used to, after moving from California to Minnesota, was the strange old blue liquor laws here. In California, you can buy beer, wine and liquor at any supermarket, seven days a week, except between the hours of 2AM and 6AM. Minnesota’s “nanny state” in this regard seems out of touch with the 21st century.

  9. Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 05/08/2014 - 04:20 pm.

    ” In California, you can buy beer, wine and liquor….. ”

    Yeah, and throw in a pack of medical marijuana while you’re at it.

  10. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/08/2014 - 09:24 pm.


    Skoe followed that bizarre statement by digging himself into a hole. People shouldn’t need to buy liquor on Sundays, he said: “People should be able to plan just a little ahead.”

    Shouldn’t this apply to groceries, TVs, fertilizer, paint, clothing, and everything else that Minnesotans can purchase on Sunday? Dude! GET A CLUE!

  11. Submitted by Michael Liquori on 05/11/2014 - 04:07 pm.

    The best reason to hurry up and pass Sunday liquor sales is so we can stop debating Sunday liquor sales.

    What a tremendous waste of time.

    It is inevitable that MN will eventually join nearly every other state in the union on this one, just get it over with.

    • Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 05/14/2014 - 09:21 pm.


      Amen to that. This is such a non-issue. You go to other states and not only can you buy booze on Sundays, but you can buy it right there in the grocery store, or Walgreens. What’s with the Legislature? Does the ghost of Andrew Volstead haunt the halls of Capitol?

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