Posted at 2:51 PM on February 8, 2011
by Michael Olson
A lobbyist for the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) tells MPR reporter Tom Scheck that the lobby group is against Surly Brewing Company's desire to build a $20 million brewery in Minnesota that includes a brewery, restaurant and beer garden. To build the proposed brewery and restaurant Surly needs to change a law preventing large brewers to sell beer in a brewery.
The MLBA is also opposed to relaxing the state's blue laws that keep Minnesota stores from selling booze on Sundays. If Surly gets an ice-cold shoulder from lawmakers, should they consider building on the other side of the St. Croix in beer-friendly Wisconsin?
Do you think the MLBA is acting against the wishes of Minnesotans by opposing the Surly brewery?
Did they MLBA explain why they are against what is perhaps the most exciting brewing news & brewery in Minnesota since the end of prohibition? Let me guess; Surly is not a member of their organization.
I would also like to know why the MLBA opposes this. Afraid Surly would undersell them? People might go direct to breweries for fresher beer?
It seems to me that laws like no beer or car sales on Sundays, no beer or wine in grocery stores, and the like are purely the result of industry lobbying and serve no public purpose. They should therefore be left to the market.
When my organization was backing the statewide smoking ban, MLBA opposed us, too. Many people talked about them as if they were unbeatable.
Living in IL now (lived in MN for many years), I can now buy booze on Sundays and in the grocery store, yet most of the time I still buy my liquor at a dedicated liquor store since the grocery stores' booze is more expensive and the selection isn’t very good. It is awesome, and almost makes up for the fact that I now live in IL.
Not 100% sure, but I would guess the law exists in order to keep large brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors from coming in and opening up bars all over the state, in essence driving small business out of the market.
I've read a bit about about Sunday sales, and the reason that the MLBA is opposed seems to be that their members (liquor store owners) by in large would lose money if they had to open up operations on Sundays. The stores that are open to Sunday sales are those that live on the borders, representing minority of liquor stores. Although some consumers would like Sunday sales for convenience purposes, it seems that legislators should listen to the industry leaders themselves when considering this legislation.
If AB, Miller and Coors opening up bars were the issue, wouldn't we see that in WI? We don't, with the exception of Milwaukee (home of Miller).
If Surly (followed shortly by Summit, no doubt) were to expand to this level they could finally produce enough brew to expand beyond their current reach. This would be good for Minnesota. Hopefully both MLBA and lawmakers see this.
The problem in my opinion is not that a large brewer can't open a restaurant or bar, but that what defines a "large brewer" is very outdated. I'd be fine with that being reclassified rather than getting rid of the law altogether.
The primary reason that MLBA does not support breweries being able to sell beer for consumption on-site is that their biggest concern is the distributers, and this obviously takes them out of the equation. THe distributers have the most power in beer, an it is very unfortunate. It stifles the craft beer market.
Who cares if AB wants to build their BudLand next to Surlyland? It would be like opening a Hard Rock Cafe next to First Avenue.
I would like to know where MLBA gets their funding? Any out of state money?
@Jim - take a look at their membership page. Plenty of out-of-state businesses there.
After watching the documentary "Beer Wars", this is no surprise. This MLBA is wrapped around Anheuser-Busch's and CoorsMiller's finger along with all the distributors that get money from them. This is not about anything BUT the interests A-B and massive brewers and MLBA won't admit it...ever.
This is very sad to see that this Association, a Minnesota Association would make efforts against such a successful company because of fear. What is there to fear from Surly? Go run to your senators and reps MLBA. Go run off and tell mamma.
MLBA website had a member list... I see regional and national brewers on the list... I see distributors and credit card processors on the list... food suppliers for restaurants on the list...
I'm thinking lots of these groups make more money from BAR sales then from liqueur store sales. I'm thinking that part of the goal in keeping sunday sales, or even grocery store sales, from happening, is to drive people to go out to eat more. Of course, if people were choosing to go out to eat at a brewery then they would not be at the local restaurants that are members, or supplied by members of the MLBA.
Surly of course is already marked up in price to what I find to be ridiculous levels, they make good beer for sure, but I don't think it ends up being worth the price.
All of this being said, Minnesota, the twin cities in particular, is home to several brew pubs, that have to limit their production to stay "legal"
I've heard said that the twin cities is one of the finest cities in the Midwest for a good brew pub, we can't compete with Washington/Seattle...
our laws are pretty fucked up when it comes alcohol sales though... local brew pubs can't trade kegs with one another for advertising, since they are only allowed to serve beer, and sell it in 64 ounce bottles if it is going to leave the premises.
I feel like so much of this is setup to make being a moderate sized brewery difficult enough so that no one can compete with the "big boys" of brewing:
Goose Island, Redhook & Widmer Brewery
(all of whom are listed on the MLBA's site as members...)
Don't I recall some other issues with Surly and politicians which is why they can no longer sell growlers directly?
Growlers btw (64 oz. of beer in a glass bottle) are much "greener" then selling by the can as surly currently does, simply do to the fact the bottles are used over and over and over again... but leave it to the politicians to legislate the wastefulness of the american populace...
(Sorry this kinda turned into a rant...)
I would love to see Surly expand their brewing operation to include a restaurant and far more capacity. Many other states allow breweries to also operate restaurants/brew pubs. In the case of Surly, they started as a brewery and would like to now open a restaurant. For someone like me, I'd like to start with a brewpub and later have the ability to expand to include a package brewery which would not be legal under Minnesota's current laws.
I'm not sure Surly would see enough customer traffic to justify building on the WI side of the state line, but one would have to do that math. You'd also have to consider the different taxation between states when you figure it out...
As for being open on Sundays, I find it hard to believe that liquor stores would lose money by being open an extra day of the week. I don't know a single person who wouldn't take advantage of Sunday opening. If you can't make money on Sunday, don't open on Sunday. If the law requires you to be open for some silly reason, that's just dumb!
I plan to watch for this legislation to be introduced and write my congress-people appropriately. The only thing we can do is make our opinions known...
The MLBA does not care about anything other than lining their own pockets. To me, they don't seem to be anything more than a group of bullies. They have this insane fear that if a brewery were able to sell on premesis that they would take sales away from liquor stores and/or bars. That is the most insane thing I have ever heard; I love surly and drink a lot of their beers, but I would not drive across town to buy the beer from the brewery, even if it was half off. It's the slippery slope argument.
I wish all lobbyists would go away.
Make your opinions known. Write, email and phone your Minnesota representatives. You can find them via the link below.
Minnesota Legislature: Find out who represents you:
Go Surly! And while we're at it, let's advocate for Sunday liquor sales and abolishing 3.2 beer. Two needless laws in this state for too many years.
Let the market sort these things out, not lobbyists with envelopes of cash.
Surly Brewing is a quality Minnesota company that provides a much desired product. If they think they can make this proposed restaurant successful, I see no reason our legislature should be preventing something that Minnesota citizens want. As far as liquor sales on Sundays my feelings are they same. There should not be a law preventing it! As far as certain liquor stores loosing money by being open on Sundays, no one will be forcing them to be open! They can let their competition be open for however many or few people are seeking alcohol on the days they are closed.
Beer lovers of Minnesota-Unite! Fight the good fight! Go Surly!