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Liquor bills could allow nonprofits to better tap into needed funds

Extending the length of a liquor license and strength of beer offered could help community organizations find more funding.

Allowing municipalities to offer those options was included in four bills laid over by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

HF3070, sponsored by Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), would allow municipalities to issue a seven-day license to county fairs and agriculture associations, rather than four days as is the current maximum for a temporary license. There is no Senate companion.

In Minnesota, 48 county fairs run longer than four days. Many fairs fund building upkeep, programs, repairs and improvements using money from beer tents. They’ll sell for four days and make other arrangements for the rest of the week.

Cody Sleiter, a Lyon County Fair Board member explained the issue for his organization, telling members there are two big events that include beer sales: a steak fry that traditionally takes place on Wednesday and a rolle bolle (a cross between bocce and horseshoes) tournament Sunday.

The organization must choose which day to sell beer because of the four-day limit and offers the alcohol sales to a local restaurant on the other night.

It means $20,000 or $25,000 in missed revenue.

Similarly, beer sales is a major funding source for town baseball teams that use the money for everything from uniforms to umpires.

The 3.2% alcohol teams can sell under current law will soon be impossible to find. HF3018 would allow municipalities to issue wine and strong beer licenses to town ball teams.

Town team baseball is a big deal, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), adding that you can experience everything that is great about baseball by sitting in a town team bleacher on a summer day.

The bill’s companion, SF3245, is sponsored by Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Chanhassen) and awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee.

Also laid over was HF2758, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), which, notwithstanding existing onsale restrictions for hours of sale, would allow establishments showing FIFA World Cup games to sell alcohol 30 minutes before, 30 minutes after, and during the game. It has no Senate companion.

A draft bill from Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven) would allow taprooms to offer a guest tap to one other brewery. The guest tap is for small craft breweries that produce fewer than 5,000 barrels per year.

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