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Allowing younger liquor servers may be temporary solution to staffing shortage

Seventeen-year-olds may be able to serve liquor as a temporary answer to labor shortages.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell), HF2806 would lower the minimum age of serving alcohol from 18 to 17. The two-year change would help address an immediate labor shortage in the hospitality industry.

Laid over by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday for possible inclusion in its omnibus liquor bill, the bill was suggested by the owners of Great River Bowl & Partners Pub in Sartell.

The pandemic has hit his industry in many ways, but finding staff might be the biggest challenge, said owner Jason Mathiasen.

“It’s tough to go without help,” he said, adding that high school students is one of the most promising labor pools.  

The pub’s liquor license is his responsibility, and Mathiasen said he takes it seriously. He has 17-year-olds on his staff he trusts to handle liquor responsibly and older people he might not.

“I know these 17-year-olds can do it; they’ve already proved they can,” he said.

O’Driscoll hasn’t heard opposition to the bill, though most 17-year-olds are still in high school. His understanding is that the Minnesota State High School League does not object because it has experience with 18-year-old senior athletes who handle alcohol as part of their jobs.

The companion, SF2814, is sponsored by Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) and awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee. 

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