Around 300 bars and restaurants in Minnesota will not be able to buy alcohol until the state reaches a budget agreement and ends its government shutdown. Since closing down all but the most important services on July 1, the state has stopped issuing the $20 buyer cards required by retailers to replenish their alcohol inventories — bad news for Minnesotans already hurting from the cuts to their social services.
Restaurants are already reporting being low on inventories, and Frank Ball, the executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, calls the situation “crippling” to the alcohol retail industry. In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer, Ball warned against beer spoiling in warehouses and bars closing:
Wurzer: “The penalty for buying or selling alcohol without this card is about $250 for the first offense. Do you think it might be wiorth it to some of these bars and restaurants and liquor stores and their providers for that matter to just kind of chance it and risk paying he fine?
Ball: “They’re sitting on millions of dollars worth of sales here, and they could be fined up to a thousand dollars for the suspension of their license for each event. But there’s nobody to enforce that law. So we don’t cover the wholesalers — that’s a decision they’ll have to make — but [with] our retailers, we’re telling them, if you’ve got a wholesaler that will sell to you, buy. Because otherwise if they run out of their product, our bars and restaurants are going to fold. They’re going to close.”
Along with losing their neighborhood bars, Minnesotans may also have to cope with the loss of MillerCoor’s 39 brands of beer. After misfiling its brand-label registration paperwork in June, the company could not procure the necessary documents from the state before its offices shut down a couple of weeks later.
But beer is only the latest victim in the state’s government shutdown debacle. Each day, Minnesota is losing $1.25 million from lottery sales and $200,000 from the closures of its state parks. By month’s end, the state coffers will be short $52 million it would have collected in tax revenues. And yet, as social services suffer and government workers idle without paychecks, lawmakers have made no movements recently toward a budget compromise. If the state legislature stopped focusing on politics and started focusing on people, we might start to see progress.