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Teamsters Union stalls Sunday growler sales

Except on Sundays
Except on Sundays

Last week wasn't all good news for beer: Minnesota craft brewers took home five international awards but may have lost the battle over growlers.

Sales of these refillable 64-ounce containers are prohibited on Sunday and will remain so, for the foreseeable future, thanks to the Teamsters Union.

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Growler and pint punch cards being offered for local breweries

Ed Reynoso, the union's political director, did not return our request for interview, but recently told MPR that a nameless alcohol distributor was worried that proposed legislation allowing growler sales on Sundays would reopen labor contracts. So he lobbied DFL leaders behind closed doors, suggesting that wages, benefits, and hours would be put back on the table.

It may have been enough to stop the growler provisions of the wider-reaching liquor bill from sailing through the Senate. A tax committee has yet to schedule a hearing -- which, in turn, jeopardizes similar legislation in the House and makes the possibility of easing any Sunday liquor sales unlikely this session.

The opposition of the Teamsters baffles beer proprietors. Unlike liquor stores, brew pubs and breweries are allowed to open on Sundays and make beverages on-site. The owners are not lobbying for a full repeal of the state's blue laws -- only the ability to sell every one of their products, every day of the week.

"Every Sunday we've had someone ask for a growler," says Pete Rifakes, owner of Town Hall Brewery and treasurer of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild. "A lot of people come from out of town and they want to take our beer back. It's great for publicity."

The chief opponent of Sunday liquor laws in the Senate, Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth), says he's reached out to the union with a compromise. He offered to add language that prohibits liquor stores from getting deliveries on Sundays, meaning no contracts would have to be reopened. No dice.

"That doesn't seem to address their concerns, which to me says, you're not willing to really negotiate at all," Reinert says. "You're just going to say no to any progress."

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to jmarx@citypages.com

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