For University of Minnesota football fans, the beer is near.
The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday allowing beer sales throughout TCF Bank stadium. The vote comes after years of negotiations between the U, which wanted to restrict beer sales to patrons in its suites, and lawmakers who wanted beer for fans in the cheap seats as well.
"I feel like my family's coming together, my U of M family and my family here at the Legislature," said sponsor Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, after the bill passed 107-16. "I'm just really, really happy." The Senate passed its version of the liquor omnibus bill earlier this week.
The Gopher beer bill has a few more stops before U of M trustees can start drawing up the details of where and how beer will be sold at TCF Bank Stadium. There will be one more vote in the Senate to tweak a few differences between the two bills before it moves to the governor.
The stadium beer provision was the highest-profile part of this year's omnibus liquor legislation. It also includes a handful of smaller bills about wine tastings, craft beer festivals and whether liquor stores should be allowed to sell T-shirts with their logos.
House lawmakers made a short-lived attempt to turn the bill into a vehicle for more-controversial liquor issues, like whether to lift Minnesota's ban on Sunday liquor sales, or allow anyone under 21 to drink in a bar with their parents.
"If it's legal on six days, why isn't it legal on seven?" said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who offered the Sunday liquor sale amendment, much to the chagrin of the omnibus sponsors, who were hoping to keep controversy to a minimum.
"We're all adults," agreed Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, arguing that it's time to modernize the last remnant of the "Blue Laws" that used to ban Americans from shopping for much of anything, not just alcohol, on Sunday.
Both Drazkowski and Kriesel tried to amend the omnibus to legalize Sunday liquor sales; Kriesel's bill would have legalized Sunday sales just in border counties. Both attempts were defeated.
"Nobody's crying for Sunday liquor sales," said DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier, whose hometown of Duluth sits just over the border from Wisconsin, where Sunday liquor sales are legal.
The amendments' supporters said consumers deserve the right to buy a bottle of wine if they have company coming on Sunday. Opponents said mom-and-pop liquor stores would suffer, and there's no reason why people can't buy wine for their Sunday parties on Saturday.
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049