From Bloody Marys to lava cake's boozy secret ingredient, a Minnesota House committee took a broad look at liquor law reform for the first time this session, though absent from scrutiny were measures to repeal the state's ban on Sunday sales.
In a hearing that spanned more than two hours, the House Commerce Committee considered several measures, though no votes were taken. Key among issues discussed was another bid to allow Sunday sales of growlers, or refillable beer containers, from Minnesota taprooms.
While testimony included the expected supporters, like brewpubs, and opponents — like wholesalers and the Teamsters, who say changing the law could jeopardize their labor contracts — other witnesses had little concern for growlers.
Among them was Erin Rykken, of Richfield, who avoids feeding her children processed foods and preservatives, sometimes requiring her to cook with liquor. It became a problem on a recent Sunday when her son wanted lava cake for his birthday party — a recipe that required orange liqueur.
"I literally had to drive to Wisconsin to go buy orange liqueur," she said. "I just wish we could extend this bill a little further to cover all Sunday sales. It would make my life a little bit easier and other people's lives a little bit easier."
Kristen Merritt, of Buffalo, a wine connoisseur, said she opposes Sunday growler sales only on the principle of fairness.
"It does not seem applicable to me, as someone who does not enjoy beer, that those who drink beer would be able to purchase beer on Sundays to take with them to events, and enjoy with their families, while I would not be able to do the same with wine," she said.
Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who co-authored the growler bill — one of many Sunday sales measures this session — called it a compromise, at the very least giving breweries equal ground with farm wineries, which are allowed to sell their product on Sundays.
"It's no secret that I support Sunday sales completely. I would love to see that happen," she told the committee. "Given the dynamic of what's been taking place at the Legislature, if that doesn't happen, my fallback is the growler bill."
Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko, said he could not support Sunday growler sales because of other products that are left out.
"It just seems that we're setting aside something special that's inconsistent with the rest of the Sunday liquor sales and I simply cannot support any of this. If we're going to pass laws they should be consistent."
Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, a vocal proponent of Sunday sales, pointed out that the law is already inconsistent, as wine can currently be bought from wineries on Sundays, as can 3.2 beer from several sources.
The committee also considered allowing smaller craft wineries to sell their product, and the "Bloody Mary bill," which would allow certain restaurants, clubs and hotels to sell alcohol on Sundays starting at 8 a.m. rather than 10 a.m.
Cynthia Gerdes, owner of popular downtown Minneapolis bar and restaurant Hell's Kitchen — which recently expanded its Bloody Mary bar — said customers come in with their families for a drink or breakfast before a ballgame or after a wedding. Many from out of state are surprised, she said, when she can't serve alcohol before 10 a.m. because of a century-old law.
In exchange for lawmakers' support, Gerdes promised, "I won't see you for another 111 years."