Updated: January 29, 2021 06:36 PM
Created: January 29, 2021 03:28 PM
Many businesses like breweries have been struggling during this health pandemic. Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors say a state law limiting who can sell growlers is making business hurt even more. On Friday, a group of state lawmakers visited the brewery to hear more about the issue.
Castle Danger is one of five Minnesota breweries in the country along with Fulton, Surly, Schell's and Summit that can not sell to go beer due to the states current growler cap.
"What's frustrating about that is that it is so much part of the experience of a tap room and is so much a part of our growth. It's a marketing tool and has allowed a brewery in a town of 3,300 people to become the fifth largest in the state," said Lon Larson, the vice president and co-owner of Castle Danger Brewery.
The breweries formed the Alliance of Minnesota Craft Breweries to bring awareness to removing the state's current cap, which says only breweries that produce less than 20-thousand barrels a year can sell growlers.
"With the loss of the growlers in October of 2019 we had an immediate drop of 30 percent of our tap room revenues. Specifically with the pandemic and with the closures we have not been able to do any off sale, any to go sale whatsoever out of our taproom. Our tap room was closed for basically six months out of 2020. Our tap room staff was furloughed with no work for them to do," said Jamie MacFarlane, the chief financial manager for Castle Danger Brewery.
As a result, hundreds of kegs of beer in the tap room unable to be sold have expired and get dumped down the drain.
"For Fulton we have 30 employees. That is down over 25% due to COVID-19. It's going to take years for us to recover. Sixty percent of our business is draft, it's going to your local bar and restaurant," said Jim Diley, the co-owner of Fulton Brewing.
Brewery staff emphasized growlers help in promoting tourism and jobs, saying it benefits the three tier system and adds tax dollars to the state. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they agree and want the cap to change.
"We are penalizing businesses for being successful. We can not do that. We have to change this law and get this limit where it should be," said Republican Sen. John Jasinski, who represents Faribault.
"This is a bipartisan issue and it should be because everyone should be in favor of small businesses and helping small businesses grow," said DFL Sen. Sandy Pappas, who represents St. Paul.
"Growlers offer a little glimmer of hope for us and the other breweries in Minnesota that can't sell them," said Diley.
"We are trying to change this law so that Minnesota breweries no matter how big or small can continue to grow in Minnesota, employ Minnesotans, local people, give back to their local economies and communities at no cost to the state. We in turn would actually give more revenues into the state of Minnesota by the growler sales," said MacFarlane.
Jasinksi said have a 'Free the Growler' bill getting drafted that they are hoping to introduce soon to make a change in the cap this legislative session.
To learn more about the effort, click here.
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