St. Louis Park cut off service on cocktail room licenses this week, opting to further study whether to allow microdistilleries to serve their liquor directly to customers. However, comments by City Council members suggested that the proposal will eventually have enough votes to pass.
Cocktail rooms at microdistilleries are the equivalent of taprooms at microbreweries. State law allows the operators of a distillery to serve its own spirits on-site, but the distillery's home city also has to allow it. There currently are seven licensed cocktail rooms in Minnesota, according to the state Alcohol & Gambling Enforcement Division. Three are in Minneapolis, while none of the others is in a first- or second-ring Twin Cities suburb.
On Monday, the St. Louis Park City Council was set to pass a package of updates to its liquor laws, including a process for issuing cocktail room licenses. But Council Member Susan Sanger asked her colleagues to study the issue further before moving ahead.
"It would allow people to drink hard liquor, but no food would be served," Sanger said. "That frankly concerns me from a public-safety point of view."
Council Member Gregg Lindberg also advocated further study. Several other council members indicated that they favored cocktail rooms, but didn't mind giving the matter more time.
"I think aligning our code with state law makes perfect sense," said Council Member Anne Mavity. "But if my colleagues have questions … I'm OK with taking it off [the table]."
St. Louis Park is home to two microdistilleries. Joe Muggli, owner of Millers & Saints Distillery, said he "would like to entertain the idea" of opening a cocktail room serving his company's products.
"It's exactly the same as a taproom situation," he said. "We're just looking to have the same ability a brewery has. It's a great way for a distillery to showcase its own spirits. We just want a level playing field with taprooms."
Muggli, whose family also owns Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park, said concerns about public safety are unfounded.
"We're not a place to stop and have multiple drinks," he said. "We're a stopover." He said cocktail rooms could allow food trucks to serve at their locations, in the same way that many taprooms do.
Council Member Steve Hallfin said Tuesday he expects the proposal to be approved in the end.
"Once we study it, if everything seems fine, I'm sure we'll probably pass it eventually," Hallfin said. "But we're not in a hurry to do this.
"We sure are a long way from the days of Prohibition, aren't we?" he added with a laugh.