Focus on New Laws: Changes to Liquor Laws

June 22, 2020

A variety of liquor law changes affecting cities were passed during the 2020 regular legislative session.

The 2020 omnibus liquor bill, Chapter 103 (SF 2130), was passed by the Legislature during the regular session and includes several provisions that affect cities. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law on May 27.

Liquor sales at ballparks and stadiums

Section 1 of the bill broadens authority for liquor sales at ballparks and stadiums. Previously, cities could issue on-sale wine and malt liquor licenses to summer collegiate league baseball team owners or holders of a concession or management contract.

However, those beverage sales could only be done during games at a ballpark or stadium. As of Aug. 1, 2020, those licenses may authorize sales at any event at the ballpark or stadium, not just games.

Sunday deliveries prohibited

Section 3 extends the prohibition on Sunday wholesaler liquor deliveries to on-sale establishments. Under previous law, the prohibition on Sunday wholesaler liquor delivers applied only to off-sale establishments.

Pension obligation reporting

Section 5 of the bill modifies a law that requires a city with a municipal liquor operation experiencing a net loss in any two of three consecutive years to hold a public hearing on whether the city should continue to operate the liquor store. However, if the long-term pension liability is considered in the profit and loss of the liquor store, it may result in an otherwise profitable liquor operation appearing to operate at a loss.

This section clarifies that these pension obligations should not be regarded as part of the net loss prior to the interfund transfer. Therefore, a public hearing on the continued operation of the liquor store is not necessary if the pension obligations prevent the store from appearing to be profitable.

This does not change the reporting requirements, nor does it change the hearing requirements if the municipal liquor operation is not profitable even when pension obligations are not included in the calculations.

City liquor licenses

Also in the omnibus liquor bill, 10 cities received special legislation for liquor licenses. Those cities are Sartell, Chaska, Forest Lake, Pierz, Pemberton, Alexandria, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Rochester, and Austin. These sections are effective upon approval by city councils in each jurisdiction, in compliance with Minnesota Statutes, section 645.021.

A more complete outline of the omnibus liquor bill will be available in the League’s 2020 Law Summaries, which will be completed this summer.

COVID-19 law for off-sale of liquor

The Legislature also passed Chapter 75 (SF 4489), temporarily allowing qualified licensees (mostly restaurants) to offer limited quantities of malt liquor, hard seltzer, cider, and wine for off-site consumption. This legislation was introduced in response to COVID-19.

The bill, which was passed during the regular legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Walz on April 17, allows this off-sale of liquor without additional licensing. Businesses are also required to make sure customers buying the alcohol are at least 21 years old.

This provision remains in effect until the governor’s executive orders limiting the affected businesses expire, are rescinded, or legislative action is taken.