The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to loosen local liquor laws that separate churches and spirits.
In separate votes, the council approved measures to allow restaurants serving alcohol and microbreweries selling growler jugs to open near houses of worship.
Current restrictions allow restaurants to serve alcohol near churches only if it accounts for no more than 30 percent of their sales and they do not have a bar. Council member Gary Schiff, the sponsor of the measure, said the restriction has created many empty storefronts.
“It hasn’t limited the sale of alcohol,” Schiff said. “It’s just created a lot of vacant buildings on our commercial corridors.”
The restaurant change passed the council on a vote of 12-1, with council member Cam Gordon voting no.
The second measure authorizes microbreweries that sell large jugs of their beer to open near churches. Minneapolis will have two microbreweries as of Friday afternoon, when Fulton Brewery opens in the Warehouse District, but others may be on the way.
In particular, Schiff’s change would pave the way for Rob Miller to open a first-of-its-kind taproom and microbrewery near St. Cyril’s church in Northeast Minneapolis. Miller is proposing that customers be able to drink pints and buy growlers at his microbrewery, a model that is only possible because of the “Surly law” that passed the Legislature this spring.
St. Cyril’s parishioners spoke out against the change at a recent committee meeting, expressing concerns about drinking so close to the church and limited parking.
“I don’t have any question about recognizing that we want to add new businesses into our city, and I fully support that,” said council member Diane Hofstede. “But I also support that we listen to both sides of the story and that they have an opportunity to express themselves.”
Miller said Friday that the change is “exciting” and “all the support has been amazing.” They plan to meet with their landlord on Monday to go over the lease and will eventually start applying for licenses.
“We can live out our dream of opening a brewery in Minneapolis and bringing more great craft beer to Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis,” said Miller, who’s company is called Dangerous Man Brewing.
He said they spoke with the church yesterday to try to accommodate their concerns. Dangerous Man Brewing may, for example, move the entrance of the brewery to the corner facing away from the church.
Council member Don Samuels, who opposed the issue in committee, changed his mind on Friday. He related it to the garbage burner located near Target Field downtown.
“I do believe that there is a need for us to see our society as integrated, and all the parts compatible,” Samuels said.
The microbrewery ordinance passed on a vote of 11-2, with council members Hofstede and Barb Johnson voting no.
“Minneapolis has quite the history with prohibition,” Schiff said. “[Minnesota was] one of the earliest states to ban the sale of alcohol. And I think laws that make it difficult for adults to consume alcoholic beverages are just a holdover from those days.”