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Minnesota’s Governor Backs Beer and Wine Sales for Restaurants During Pandemic Closures

Cans and bottles to go could soon be a reality for local restaurants, although cocktails are iffy

A coup with a Manhattan served up is placed on the bar with the Minneapolis skyline in the background
Beer and wine would be allowed under a new bill, but legislators are still iffy on cocktails
John Yuccas/Eater Twin Cities

Restaurants have been pushing for the ability to add liquor sales to food orders for take away since the sweeping closure of all restaurants and bars in Minnesota on March 17. Legislators are getting closer to approving a measure that would allow this boost in sales and availability around the state. Governor Tim Walz has indicated that he would support beer and wine sales if allowed by a bill passed by the Legislature. Some representatives would prefer Walz pass an executive order to hasten sales.

At a news conference yesterday, restaurant owners said alcohol made up 30% to 45% of total sales before the mandated closure. The state’s stay in place order has extended until May 4, adding longer days of lost potential sales for these businesses.

Under the bill restaurants would be allowed to sell up to two bottles of wine and 144 ounces of beer, or roughly a dozen 12-ounce cans of beer or nine 16-ounce cans. Food would be required or the order to be allowed and all alcohol would need to be sold in a closed container. Unfortunately, no mixed beverage sales would be allowed. Legislators raised concerns over cocktails being served in open containers. The ability of some bars to serve bottled or sealed pre-batched cocktails didn’t seem to be addressed.

The measure would follow other states that are allowing bars and restaurants to serve to-go drinks amidst the pandemic, including New York, Colorado and Wisconsin.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter joined a coalition of mayors across the state in sending a letter asking the governor for temporary alcohol sales and delivery for restaurants, bars, microdistilleries and breweries. Local governments would be allowed to opt out if they don’t want restaurants selling alcohol to go in their communities.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol this week to take up this and other temporary measures to address the pandemic.