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Lawyers, Refrigerators and Money

The Minnesota Legislative session is nigh, and with that, constituents will surely again take up the call to pass a bill for Sunday Sales of alcohol in Minnesota.  Supporters (and I’m one) have been taking up the cause for several years now and progress continues to be made, but passage seems just beyond reach. I do believe it will pass, eventually, but faith only goes so far, so do contact your legislators to voice your support for Sunday Sales in Minnesota.  

We are fortunate, though, that is our only fight. Our state rules, as they pertain to beer, are not as vulnerable to influence from industry heavyweights like they are in other states. In Missouri, for example Senate Bill 919 has been introduced and within you’ll see the political gamesmanship that occurs in rulemaking; one likeable item paired with a non-likeable item in hopes that they’ll pass together or fail together (and then why not throw in a third piece permitting use of a specific device, the language of which was likely put forth by the manufacturer of said device).

Let’s look at the three subparts from the end of the bill to the beginning.  

331.205 – the one where patrons use a self-dispensing machine at a licensed establishment.  Ok, fine, I can see some utility in that. Have you tried the self-serve beer machine at Target Field?  Me neither. 

331.201 – the one where you can get a growler filled just about anywhere that sells packaged beer. Great! Well, the language about labeling seems a bit onerous for the retail establishment, but it’s nice to be able to fill growlers at a liquor store (looking at you, Hudson, WI).

And the coup de grace:

331.198 – the one where the Missouri Small Brewer’s Guild (MSBG) gets riled-up. It allows for brewers and wholesalers to lease fridge space in a retail establishment through a portable unit (as “portable” as a seven-foot by four-foot fridge can be).  

The MSBG asserts this language comes from AB/InBev which I cannot confirm nor deny, but seems likely, because this is Missouri and this bill was introduced by a Senator from suburban St. Louis. Regardless of where it came from – is this grab for retail space by actually paying for it an assault on smaller craft brewers that can’t afford a “pay-to-play” approach? Perhaps. It’s my suspicion few brewers would be able to bear the cost of a unit like this. Anheuser Busch, though…    

But how gullible are we? The end product could also be nothing more than an eyesore to consumers and a headache for retailers who need to find space for a 66 cubic-foot branded refrigerator. Is this an ill-fated marketing attempt by larger producers or is this an indicator of the fight to come within the beer industry? Time will tell.  Perhaps this is a bill that is designed to die in committee so the senator can claim victory for putting it forth, but not shoulder the ire of having it passed.  

And hey, that’s not even in Minnesota!  Why worry? That type of stuff would NEVER happen here. Right?