Minnesota Government Crisis Taps Beer

By Eliza

Jul 13, 2011 6:32pm

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ABC News' Eliza Larson reports:

Minnesota’s government shutdown is causing big problems not just for state workers and people who rely on state services. Also feeling the pinch are people who rely on beer companies and vendors, particularly MillerCoors.

The state has told MillerCoors it needs to pull its products from stores, bars and restaurants statewide because of a licensing problem caused by the shutdown.

Employees who process state license renewals were laid off when state government shut down on July 1 in a budget dispute.

“We believe we have a right to sell our products because we compiled with state law,” says Julian Green, MillerCoors’ Director of Media Relations. Green says the company had properly filed their application before the deadline, and therefore, the license should have been renewed. But the state never returned the original check for the fee, and now has two checks from the company. Then, due to the confusion of the shutdown, the company's license had expired.

MillerCoors distributes 39 brands throughout Minnesota, one of the company’s largest markets, but in the busiest time of any year, summer, losing the license to sell – and also retailers’ inability to obtain licenses from the government to buy – retailers and consumers are ultimately impacted.

Green said the brewer still hopes to resolve the dispute through discussions with state alcohol regulators.

Frank Ball, Executive Director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, explained that the process of attaining a license to sell or buy has to go through the government. Well, what are you supposed to do when the government’s doors are closed?

Minneapolis’ Star Tribune reported alcohol distributors throughout Minnesota face dwindling alcohol supplies.

Erik Forsberg, owner of the Ugly Mug Bar in Minneapolis near Target Field, says “this is not about beer, but it’s about everyday economics.”

Forsberg alluded to how not only are bars and restaurants suffering, but grocery stores and smaller vendors are as well.  He says that the time Minnesota legislators are wasting not coming up with a solution means that companies like MillerCoors are losing millions of dollars. 

“Minnesota is a tourism state,” says Ball, who said its not just the government shutdown that has purveyors of alcohol down. He argued they’re “already suffering from recent smoking ban, blood alcohol level, and extremely high tax level.”

Due to the situation in Minnesota, the offices of Minnesota’s Department of Safety and Minnesota Liquor Control Agency were unable to contribute comments.

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