Monday, February 27, 2017

Sunday Sales is pretty much in the bag, what's next?

Now that Sunday Sales (finally) is going to be a reality in Minnesota, what else can beer activism focus on in Minnesota?

For me, it comes down to 4 things:

Items that would help out small business owners such as liquor stores, breweries, brewpubs:

  • Remove on/off sale distinctions - allow bars to sell bottles/cans for off-site consumption and allow liquor stores to sell growlers, charge for pints and have a "taproom" - this passed in North Carolina a few years ago and has aided in the opening of many specialty wine and beer shops because they can now focus on a craft segment and increase their margins by serving pints without having to worry as much about margins.
  • Eliminate distinction between brewpubs and breweries. Today brewpubs (Town Hall, Northbound, etc) can sell growlers but cannot distribute beer. They can serve other people's product and have a liquor license. Breweries cannot serve other people's product or wine/liquor but can distribute. By eliminating this distinction, breweries could have guest taps, and even apply for a full liquor license if local conditions warrant. This would allow locations to also get into distilling (think Bent Brewstillery) and be able to serve their own product. Brewpubs would be able to distribute and would essentially become a brewery.
Additional items that would help breweries:
  • Eliminate restrictions for off sale (64/32 oz "growlers" today, but see next point) based on brewery size.
  • Eliminate restrictions on off sale container formats at breweries. This will allow breweries to brew more one-offs in cans/bottles/whatever they want that they don't have to send to distribution and can sell right out of the brewery.

Some version of these two would go a long way towards keeping us competitive with other states, encourage beer tourism and give small business owners viable high margin income streams to be able to compete with larger competitors.

I developed these 4 items from observing other states in my travels and seeing the impact some of these things can have on the local economy. My cynical side tells me some of these will never pass here. The distributors/unions will not be a fan of some of these as it will further reduce their (already too high) power. There will be liquor store owners that don't want to make the capital investment in a "tap room" and they will probably object. There will be restaurant owners that will object to allowing on sale in additional locations. I think they key to any of these passing is making the pie bigger for everybody. May be tough to get the distributors in on that.

Some version/variant of all of these is already in play in many states and Minnesota can be a leader in this which will continue to help expand the economic importance of our beer and spirits industries.