Bill introduced to temporarily expand on-site sales for Minnesota’s craft breweries and microdistilleries

After a major public push last week led by the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, a bill has been introduced that would temporarily allow breweries and distilleries some retail flexibility.

HF 4640, authored by Rep. Liz Olson and Rep. Sydney Jordan, would allow breweries whose taprooms have been closed by executive order to sell six- and four-packs on-site (limited to one per customer), and temporarily allow microdistilleries to sell one 750-milliliter or two 375-milliliter bottles per customer on-site. It would be in effect during the state of emergency enacted in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and would expire 60 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

For breweries, the inability to sell 12- and 16-ounce cans on-site, partnered with the crippling loss of taproom sales and difficulties sourcing 750-milliliter Crowlers and 64-ounce growlers, has put many of the state’s breweries at major risk of closing their doors permanently in the coming months.

“Craft breweries are navigating this unprecedented pandemic with an arm tied behind their backs,” says Lauren Bennett McGinty, executive director of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. “Without ample off-sale options and a significant drop in orders from distributors and retailers, there is just no way to make up the lost revenue.”

If nothing is done, over half of the Guild’s 150 member breweries report that they likely will be forced to close permanently after six months and 15% of the breweries say that, with the stark decrease in on-premise sales and wholesale distribution, they’ll have to shut down in the four weeks if nothing changes.

Though many breweries have pursued additional funding through the Small Business Administration, the loans have largely been either hard to come by due to exhausted funding, or significantly less than what was requested. Before the outbreak, the state’s craft brewing industry employed over 4,500 people—currently, over half of full-time brewery employees are furloughed.

The bill has been referred to the Commerce Committee and is expected to be heard this Friday. The public is being encouraged to continue calling their legislators to voice their support of the bill.

“Without urgent help, we’re at risk of losing an entire craft industry built by so many hard-working Minnesotans,” says Bennett McGinty. “These businesses need more help from our state before it’s too late.”