Senate approves plan for beer and wine to go

The Minnesota Senate has approved a plan to let Minnesota restaurants offer beer and wine to go to help them stay afloat while they subsist on takeout orders during the shutdown for COVID-19.

Lawmakers approved the legislation by a vote of 65-2 Thursday afternoon. The bill is scheduled for a vote Friday in the House.

It would allow licensed restaurants to sell up to 72 ounces of beer, hard seltzer or cider, and up to 750 milliliters of wine with a takeout food order. That works out to six 12-ounce cans of beer or a standard bottle of wine. Communities will be allowed to prohibit such sales.

Group of legislators, restaurant owners pushes for takeout beer, wine

Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants to shut down as of March 17 to enforce social distancing as the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold in Minnesota. They’re allowed to offer takeout and delivery service, which has allowed many to keep operating on a shoestring. They’ve been seeking permission since then to offer beer and wine during the shutdown to make up for lost liquor sales.

Walz has expressed support for allowing beer and wine to go, but wanted the Legislature to authorize it because of questions about whether he had the authority to grant the request via executive order.

"Businesses across Minnesota have been devastated by the events of recent weeks. They’ve made the best of the situation by offering to-go sales of food – and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to sell their inventories of alcohol and make cash now," said Senator Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, the bill’s chief author. "Minnesotans have turned out in droves to support their hometown establishments – and I suspect they will take advantage of these expanded offerings, too. The governor has committed to sign this bill. Let’s do our jobs and send it to his desk."

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