14 July 2011

Minnesota Alcohol Sales Dribbling Towards a Shutdown

UPDATE:  Minnesota's shutdown may be ending soon.............

Well, this gives a whole new twist to the concept of "essential state employees":
MINNEAPOLIS—State parks, horse-racing tracks and the state Capitol are all closed because of the government shutdown here. If the budget standoff lingers, the neighborhood watering hole could be next.
More than 300 bars and liquor stores can't buy beer, wine or liquor to sell to consumers because their $20 alcohol-purchasing licenses, known as buyer's cards, have expired, a casualty of the July 1 shutdown. For some proprietors, inventories are dwindling and anger is rising.
"This is beyond the realm of anything I ever thought in my wildest dreams," said Trevor Berg, a liquor-store owner in Walker, Minn. With his annual buyer's card expiring Sunday, he is borrowing cash from friends to buy as much beer and wine as he can get his hands on now.
Meanwhile, state officials told MillerCoors LLC, the second-largest beer maker in the U.S. behind Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, that it must remove all 39 brands of its beer from shelves statewide because its $1,170 brand-label registration fee wasn't processed before the shutdown. The brewer says it is trying to negotiate a resolution with state authorities.
Minnesota's government screeched to a halt after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to close a projected $5 billion funding gap in the state's coming two-year budget.
This should warm Lew Bryson's heart:

At a court hearing Tuesday on shutdown issues, an attorney for Mr. Dayton suggested bars purchase a low-alcohol beer— "3.2 beer"—sold in Minnesota and a few other states. It doesn't require a buyer's card.
But Mr. Forsberg said his customers don't want that product, and even if they did, distributors don't stock enough.
On the one hand, this brings home the gravity of an extended government shutdown--in the grand scheme of things, your ability to buy alcoholic beverages, unless your livelihood is in the trade, is a relatively minor issue.  On the other hand, this does show the folly of what happens when a government acts as the grantor of a privilege it controls, rather than the overseer of a free market it should merely regulate.

Minnesota, as far as I can tell, is relatively "libertarian" when it comes to the alcohol business--there's a reason that many importers and distributors set up shop in Minnesota and then distribute to adjoining Wisconsin and even Illinois.  But this just goes to show that, no matter how "good" your state or jurisdiction may be when it comes to alcohol regulation, there is always something hare-brained in the regulations that residents can complain about--and they are guaranteed to complain, too.

I wonder what would happen with a similar budgetary showdown in Pennsylvania or Virginia.......

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