Did loss of beer help end Minnesota shutdown?

Did loss of beer help end Minnesota shutdown?
A police raid on illegal alcohol at Elk Lake, Ontario, 1925. Photo from archives de l' Ontario

I have no evidence that the proposal announced tonight to end Minnesota’s government shutdown was prompted by the fear of running out of beer. But it’s nice to think about.

Minnesota’s Democratic governor Mark Dayton and the state’s Republican legislators announced they had reached a deal tonight to fund the state’s government, which had been shut down since July 1.

Coincidentally, the deal comes just two days after Minneapolis TV station KSTP reported that the Chicago-based MillerCoors conglomerate had failed to renew its three-year “brand license” to sell within the state. State officials also said MillerCoors would have had to begin removing its existing stocks from Minnesota establishments within the week.
This was on top of a report in the Star-Tribune that bars, restaurants and retailers who couldn’t get their $20 state-issued liquor purchasing card renewed before the shutdown, would be unable to buy new stock. The article reported that 300 establishments were caught short at the start of the shutdown, and another 425 cards would expire at the end of July.

There were plans being made to seek relief if the shutdown continued: some bar and restaurant owners made an appeal to a court-appointed special master to be able to keep buying liquor during the shutdown. MillerCoors was suggesting it might also pursue legal avenues, based on the fact that it had actually overpaid for its license before the shutdown, and the state was still holding its first check (In Chicaw-ga we just call that greasing the wheels). Besides, some retailers argued, they owned the MillerCoors product in their inventory, so there was no need to send that goofus delivery guy to take back their High Life. While MillerCoors needed only one $30 license for its entire portfolio of beers sold the state, Leinenkugel apparently had a separate license from before its acquisition by SABMiller, and they had already renewed it for three years.

Now it would be oh, so, easy for me to snarkily proclaim that MillerCoors’ problem was karma biting them for getting their pal, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, to sign a new distribution law that favors them heavily over smaller brewers actually located in that state. But it should seem obvious that Miller Coors was only the first beermaker to be hoist upon the Minnesota petard. We can tell the masses they should try Summit or Schell’s, and that, surprise, Hamm’s hasn’t been made there in years. But eventually, every other brewer could have been shut out of the state because they couldn't renew their retail licenses. KSTP also reported startup brewer Steel Toe of St. Louis Park couldn't start brewing because they couldn’t get a state inspector out to approve their boiler. Residents of every other state need to ask "can it happen here?" What if the Fed shuts down and TTB can't approve new brewers and labeling?

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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