Rochester to Expand Off-sale Hours for Liquor Stores and Craft Brewers

Rochester liquor stores and brewers will soon have the option to offer off-sale services until 10pm, Monday through Saturday. Of course, Sundays are still off limits for liquor store owners. But, several Minnesota municipalities, including Rochester, have passed local ordinances to allow brewers to sell growlers on Sundays (if they are small enough to qualify).

The saga to help Rochester catch up with much of the larger cities in Minnesota began a few weeks ago when the City Council tried to appease all off-sale operators, brewers and store alike. The idea was to allow brewers to stay open later while still mandating an earlier closing time for stores. Unfortunately, despite the fact that they are different types of businesses, Minnesota law requires that permitted brewer off-sale hours must be the same as local liquor stores.

“Things have been working for very many years,” said Ari Kolas, owner of Apollo Liquor, which has six locations in Rochester. “Why change it now? There’s no benefit to any of the liquor stores …”
Valley News Live – Sep 19, 2015

City leaders took steps to correct the oversight at the September 21, meeting of the Rochester City Council. The council voted 6-1 to expand off-sale retail hours. The action should be finalized next week after the change jumps through a few more procedural hoops.

Council President Randy Staver was the only dissenting vote on the issue of expanding off-sale hours. Staver seem to have changed his mind on the issue in the last few days. Staver was talking about consumer rights and overwhelming support for the change last week.

Council President Randy Staver said that so far, the feedback he’s gotten through social media is “overwhelmingly in support of extending the hours” and is rooted in the idea of not restricting consumer rights. “I find that kind of an interesting argument,” Staver said. “I’m not asking this for me; it’s for the rights.”
Valley News Live – Sep 19, 2015

But, by the time the issue was back before the council Staver decided consumer rights are no longer a compelling argument.

“Largely I just didn’t feel that folks made a compelling argument to change the hours. I hadn’t heard that anyone had been truly adversely affected by the hours that we had in place,” Staver explains.
KIMT – September 21, 2015

Staver is the lone voice of dissent on the council. Other Rochester City Council members think the change is good.

I respect our new Rochester brewing businesses and don’t want to see them hurt by unnecessary regulation,” said Council Member Michael Wojcik. “Today’s vote represents a win for Rochester’s people and brewers who wanted the same rights as nearly every other community in the state.”

Much like the most of the city council, Rochester brewers are happy the city is updating the code.

“[We are] Excited to be on par with the other cities in Minnesota,” Grand Rounds brewer Steve Finnie tells MN Beer Activists. “Rochester is a great town!! It’s my home, and I’m excited to continue to make craft beer for the craft beer lovers out there. This change helps a lot!”

Not everyone is so excited, liquor stores least of all.

“At the Legislature, craft breweries “manipulated the political system … under the guise of being small businesses,” said Kolas, the owner of Apollo Liquor, a family-owned company that’s 50 years old. “We’re all small business.”
Valley News Live – Sep 19, 2015

However, just as when it comes to Sunday sales arguments, liquor stores could remain closed when they choose not to operate. This is how most businesses operate.

Perhaps it is time to quit pinning the off-sale together. Minnesota brewers are not asking to be able to sell wine or spirits to go. If everything really needs to be equal under the law, perhaps they they should start making that push. Instead of pitting mismatched license holders against each other, Minnesota lawmakers could start looking at what states like North Carolina are doing to attract craft brewers and start taking consumer rights seriously. That is, if consumer rights are a compelling argument.



About the author

Andrew is just a guy that likes beer. You can usually find him on the twitters or spending time with his family.