St. Paul gives go-ahead to Sunday growler sales

Probably sometime around the first Sunday of July — that would be the Fourth of July weekend — St. Paul will become the second big city in Minnesota to make growlers in craft breweries available for sale on Sundays.

In a 5-1 vote Wednesday, the city of St. Paul also put into place two other changes adopted by the state Legislature — permission for craft distilleries to sell pint bottles of their products for off-premises consumption Monday through Saturday; and a change to when restaurants and bars can begin serving alcohol on Sundays, moving it from 10 a.m. to 8 a.m.. The latter was nicknamed the “Bloody Mary Bill.”

St. Paul’s ordinance must be signed by the mayor and published in city legal notices. Once those two events happen (and Mayor Chris Coleman signed the ordinance later Wednesday), the ordinance can take effect in 30 days. That puts it on track to be in place on Sunday, July 5.

Minneapolis is set to approve a similar ordinance change on June 5, but its implementation will come sooner, with sales likely beginning on June 14.

Voting no Wednesday was Council Member David Thune. After the meeting, he said he is opposed to legalizing Sunday liquor sales in liquor stores and sees the so-called Sunday growler law as the first step toward that. While he said the Sunday sales drive is portrayed as helping small operators like craft breweries, he thinks it is driven by corporate liquor interests. Small private liquor stores want a day off on Sunday.

Council Member Amy Brendmoen, who voted yes, disagreed with Thune’s analysis. “It’s overdue,” she said. “And it’s being driven by a new generation of moderate drinkers.”

Craft brewers and brew pubs have been allowed to sell 64 ounce bottles of their beer — known as growlers — for off-premises sale since 2011. Craft distilleries, which are just starting to emerge in the state, did not have the same authority. This year’s omnibus liquor bill let them sell to customers who visit distilleries or cocktail rooms. But they are limited to smaller .375 liter bottles that most haven’t been using; they are also limited to selling just one bottle per day to each customer.

As with the 8 a.m. start for on-premises sale of beer, wine and hard liquor, the Legislature gave local governments the option of permitting the sales or not. That’s why Minneapolis and St. Paul (along with other cities) have to adopt ordinances approving the changes.

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