Most of the time I have to settle for covering stories that involve beer or politics, but once in a blue moon these two cosmic bodies (that I spend way too much time thinking about) align into something distinctly interesting. Yet somehow an under-reported sleeper of a story involving such things almost missed my attention. Unfortunately the scoop isn’t good: in short, the influential Teamsters Union has entered the “Sunday Liquor Sales Debate “on the wrong side.
Even though the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) possesses a majority in the state House and state Senate, it does not retain complete free will in terms of policy adjustments (but who does?); the Teamsters lobby (like many unions) has an uncanny ability to get elected officials of the DFL variety to acquiesce to their views.
This past week Ed Reynoso, the Teamster’s Union political director, pulled a few strings with DFL leaders to stop the sale of growlers (a practice becoming popular in the taprooms of microbreweries around the state) on Sunday. He did this because an unnamed liquor distribution company, which employs some of his members, claims it would reopen contracts due to the legal changes made by the law.
Senate Tax Committee chair Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) appears to be one of those contacted. He was already against Sunday liquor sales in the first place and has claimed there is no need for any of the provisions of the liquor bill to be completed this year (which is the political way of saying he’s going to bury it a filing cabinet and hope his constituents and Minnesota voters as a whole forget about it).
Except we aren’t going to wait for next year or forget about it. It would mean there would be no liquor sales at TCF Bank Stadium for football games (remember who is playing there come fall?), it would mean brewery taprooms couldn’t be open on Sunday and there would be no extension of bar hours in Minneapolis for the MLB All-Star Game.
But not all DFLers adhere to the pressure of the Teamster lobby. State Senator Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth), a primary sponsor of the liquor bill (and its growler provision) and an overall advocate for Sunday liquor sales, informed Minnesota Public Radio on what he knew:
“I have been told that those provisions are problematic and unless I’m willing to take them out, which I’m not, then the bill is not moving forward,” Reinert said.
There is also a liquor bill working its way through the House. There the bill is in even more fragile condition, so heavy lobbying could easily pick off the provisions pertaining to Sunday growler sales. The common conclusion is that the House will wait for the Senate’s version.
The sad part is the provision for growler sales on Sunday possessed popular support from members of both parties; at least it did before the Teamster lobby stepped in. It’s just another example of a good thing being undermined by undemocratic political pressure. I respect those with different opinions on Sunday liquor sales, but it shouldn’t go down like this.
There is plenty of time before November elections. This issue does not have a clear partisan division, so if it matters to you then get informed about your candidate’s views and get to the voting booth!
Photos via: Fulton Brewery — MN Beer Activists