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Surly bill packaged in Senate omnibus liquor bill

Beer today, gone tomorrow for the Senate Commerce Committee.
Beer today, gone tomorrow for the Senate Commerce Committee.

It was a cold and windy day at the Capitol today, but inside there were nothing but blue skies for the Surly bill.

With little discussion, the Senate Commerce Committee folded the "brewer taproom license" bill into a larger omnibus liquor bill, and the package is nearly ready for a floor vote.

The bill creates a special license allowing brewers to sell pints of their own beer on-site, and frees Surly Brewing Co. owner Omar Ansari to build the $20 million brewery, restaurant, and beer garden he's been touting for months. Other local brewers are looking forward to potentially using the new license for their own tasting rooms and onsite events.

Both Ansari and Joe Bagnoli, a lobbyist from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (which at one time opposed the bill), watched silently from the sidelines for any surprises. Committee chair Chris Gerlach's opening comment should have put them at ease.

"This shouldn't be too difficult," he said before going through the omnibus bill's contents.

The taproom license will be included in Section 4, and allows brewers that produce under 250,000 barrels a year to sell their own pints. You can read the full, amended language of the bill here.

The only real concern at this stage would have been if something controversial enough to kill the whole package in a floor vote was included. But it's been trussed up with a bill creating temporary licenses for farm wineries to sell at county fairs and a bill regulating wine festivals. Not exactly hot button.

The boozy bill now heads to a finance committee, and could be up for a full floor vote in early May. The House is scheduled to roll up its omnibus version tomorrow afternoon.

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