May 30, 2024 - Politics

Raise a glass to these new Minnesota alcohol laws

Animated illustration of a beer can opening and confetti bursting out.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesotans will soon be able to order a weekday glass of wine at Lake Nokomis, take a boozy drink "to go" in two more suburbs, and chase a craft beer with a THC-infused seltzer at a local brewery.

The big picture: In the frenzied final days of the legislative session, state lawmakers made a number of tweaks to let the taps flow for Minnesotans who enjoy an adult beverage.

Reality check: These changes did not address the most contentious aspects of Minnesota's restrictive alcohol laws, such as the ban on beer and wine sales at grocery stores.

Here are some new drinking rules that were tucked into thousands of pages of bills that Gov. Tim Walz has signed into law:

🍻 Beers by the beach: A 14-word section of a 163-page commerce policy bill will allow regular beer and wine sales at The Painted Turtle in South Minneapolis.

Driving the change: The park stand's new operators learned after they took over the popular beachside spot last year that they needed a dining area with three walls (and a roof) to get a liquor license.

The fine print: While a covered dining area is in the works, lawmakers decided to allow Minneapolis to sidestep the "three walls" rule for Park & Recreation Board vendors.

What's next: The city council still needs to approve the exemption before The Painted Turtle can apply for its license.

  • A park board spokesperson told Axios that the process should wrap sometime this summer.

What we're watching: The change could also pave the way for pop-up beer gardens in city parks, park board officials say.

🚶‍♀️Social Districts: That same commerce policy law gives Shakopee and Stillwater the green light to join Anoka in piloting outdoor "social districts" where people can sip and stroll with adult beverages in a designated area.

Between the lines: The success of Anoka's experiment had other cities clamoring to follow suit.

What to expect: Stillwater and Shakopee can launch theirs as soon as August of 2025, though local officials in both cities still need to establish ground rules.

  • The Legislature could expand the program to more cities next year after Anoka reports back on how it went.

🌿 THC drink timing: A provision in another new law allows Minnesotans to order both alcoholic and THC drinks on the same night from the same venue.

  • This came about after bars and breweries complained that a "five-hour rule" banning "cross-fading" was impossible to enforce.

Catch up fast: Last year's cannabis legalization law also prohibited bartenders from serving a THC drink to someone who had consumed alcohol within the last five hours.

  • Confusion around the provision prompted some establishments to limit customers to one type of beverage — or eschew THC drinks altogether — even though the rule hadn't technically taken effect yet.
  • A one-sentence change passed as part of a cannabis regulation cleanup law this year prohibits serving such drinks to someone who is "obviously intoxicated."

The bottom line: It's up to bartenders to decide whether someone is over-served, regardless of what they're drinking.

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