It's that time of year, when the Legislature takes its favorite alcohol-related bills and rolls them into one.
The liquor omnibus is one of the more fun bills, as omnibus bills go. It's often about things like wine tastings and craft brew festivals and whether beer should be sold at University of Minnesota football games.
This year's House and Senate bills are most notable for the items that didn't make it into the hopper. No wine in grocery stories. Nothing about Sunday liquor sales. A bill by Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, that would have allowed 18- to 20-year-olds to drink in bars when accompanied by their parents almost made it into the Senate omnibus, only to be stripped out at the last minute.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) spent $200,000 on lobbying last year, but its bill to require Minnesota wholesalers to buy directly from distilleries still didn't make the cut.
Minnesota is the only state that doesn't require merchants to buy from the source, and DISCUS argued that could open the state up to liquor counterfeiters and other ills. The Minnesota Liquor Wholesalers Association, which spent $70,000 on lobbying in 2011, countered with the argument that sometimes buying from other wholesalers is just cheaper -- and they pass that cost savings on to their customers.
"I just feel we're a little too provincial and parochial in our attitude" toward alcohol in Minnesota, said Pappas, who is already gearing up for next session's liquor bills. Among other things, she'd like to push a bill that would allow Minnesota's brew pubs to bottle and sell their beer.
The bills that did make it into the omnibus include an attempt to resolve the dispute over beer sales at U football games. The U wanted to sell beer only to patrons in the suites at TCF Bank Stadium, but not in the lower levels.
The House compromise offered by Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, would allow beer sales in the suites, as well as a beer garden for the general public below.
Other omnibus survivors include a bill to allow liquor stores to sell souvenir clothing branded with their store logos. Another would license the "wine educators" who tell you which wine goes with what cheese, and one bill would allow wine enthusiasts to buy as many as six bottles when attending wine festivals.
There's a bill to allow a new craft beer festival in Winnebago to go forward. And there's the narrowly focused Broadway Liquors bill, which was written for the sole purpose of sidestepping Minneapolis codes to allow a single liquor store to reopen in a temporary location while its owners rebuild in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado.
Both the House and Senate omnibus liquor bills are out of committee and heading to the floor for a vote. The House omnibus is expected to come up for a vote sometime this week.
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049Tweet of the week
"Inspired by NMpls neighbors who gave up Saturday 4 community planning."A look ahead
Next Saturday, party activists will meet to decide intra-party races that include House Majority Leader Matt Dean's Republican face-off against Rep. Carol McFarlane and Sen. John Marty's DFL battle against Sen. Mary Jo McGuire.