ST. PAUL — Minnesotans planning to order takeout meals could have the option to add beer, wine or cider to their meal as early as this weekend under a proposal that passed the state Senate on Thursday, April 16.
The proposal would allow restaurants to sell a six-pack of beer, hard seltzer or cider or a bottle of wine with takeout food orders under the proposal. It would not apply for delivery orders and the customer picking up an order would have to be 21 or older.
The Senate approved the plan on a 65-2 vote and the House of Representatives was set to take it up on Friday. Gov. Tim Walz has said he supports the bill as it could help restaurants generate more revenue during the pandemic, something restaurant owners have said they urgently need.
Walz last month issued an order requiring restaurants and bars to close except for takeout and delivery food options due the COVID-19 pandemic and the businesses had so far been unable to offer alcoholic beverages with customers' orders.
“It’s tough, these are really really tough times and I wish this bill could open up Minnesota while keeping us all safe, but this is what we can do at this time,” the bill's author Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary's Point, said. “This is what it is for today.”
Some restaurant owners raised frustrations about not being able to offer mixed drinks or components of cocktails as part of the plan, which they said, could help bring in even more money while their dining rooms are shuttered. Municipalities would be able to opt-out of the provision if they wanted.
Housley and Rep. Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, said they still supported those options but wanted to quickly pass a proposal to free up options for restaurants and some senators said they couldn't support the bill without the tighter restrictions. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild also raised concerns about not being included in the extended off-sale bill.
“That was the only thing that we could get agreement on,” Housley said. "We barely got this much."
Opponents on Thursday said the state should be doing more to support other businesses during the pandemic and they raised concerns about prioritizing alcohol sales over other issues.
"I understand that our businesses need help, but I don't think this is the best way of doing it," Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said, noting that alcohol addiction can be deadly.