Beer drinkers looking to take home a growler from Insight Brewing in Minneapolis can pick one up as late as 10 p.m. on weekdays. A few miles away, and across the Minneapolis-St. Paul border, someone making the same request at Urban Growler Brewing Co. would go home empty.
Unlike most metro area cities, St. Paul requires liquor stores and breweries to stop selling alcohol for off-site consumption at 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
“We’re such an outlier,” said Council Member Chris Tolbert, who wants to extend the hours to 10 p.m. That would align St. Paul liquor stores and breweries with those in Minneapolis and surrounding cities.
While community members and breweries generally support the change, some liquor store owners worry about the potential impact on their businesses.
Park Liquors co-owner Chad Radenbaugh said he expects that his store would end up losing money, because additional staffing costs would exceed the likely profit from sales.
The City Council will likely vote next week on extending the hours. If approved, Radenbaugh said he would feel compelled to stay open later.
“I would feel obligated just because … there are six liquor stores within three miles of mine. Potentially, I’m losing business,” he said.
But brewery owners said the change would be a boon for them.
Tin Whiskers Brewing Co. in downtown St. Paul is open until 10 p.m. on weekdays, said president and founder Jeff Moriarty. “To have an 8 p.m. growler cutoff is very confusing to people,” he said.
Moriarty estimated that about 10 times a week servers have to turn away someone asking to refill or buy a growler. That number used to be higher, but customers have grown accustomed to the deadline for buying beer to go, Moriarty said.
“It really affects us more than what people realize,” Wabasha Brewing Co. co-owner Brett Erickson said. “We lose money every time we can’t sell something.”
Tolbert said the breweries he has heard from have supported the change. Neighborhood representatives from Highland Park to Como Park have also written to St. Paul leaders encouraging them to extend store hours to align with neighboring communities.
Before 2005, St. Paul was not alone in its 8 p.m. cutoff. State law also required Minneapolis and Duluth, and many communities surrounding those cities, to prohibit off-sale alcohol after 8 p.m. on weekdays. But when the law changed, the other cities pushed back the hours.
Mendota Heights is now the only city bordering St. Paul that does not allow sales until 10 p.m. It requires businesses to stop selling take-away alcohol at 9 p.m. on weekdays.
“Given that all but one suburb have already adopted these hours, we feel that St. Paul liquor store and craft brewery owners are at a competitive disadvantage,” Kim Moon, with the Como Community Council, wrote in an e-mail to city staff.
The change will increase sales at the businesses and bring additional tax revenue to the city, Moon wrote.