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GOP lawmaker slams Teamsters for meme about 'free the growler' bill

The bill would remove the cap that prohibits five breweries from selling growlers and beer to go.

One of the sponsors of a bill to "free the growler" got into a chippy exchange on Twitter with the Teamsters Union that opposes the proposal. 

State Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, along with a bipartisan group of Minnesota legislators last week announced a bill that would allow all breweries in Minnesota to sell growlers by removing the "growler cap" in state law. 

The "growler cap" prohibits breweries that sell more than 20,000 barrels per year from selling growlers and beer to go. Currently, there are five breweries that are too big to sell growlers.

Nash on Monday morning tweeted a screenshot of a meme the Teamsters Joint Council 32 had shared but then deleted, which featured a person with a mallet and another person in the stocks with the words, "Ancient brewer passing the two-barrel limit."

Along with the meme, the Teamsters apparently said the previous growler cap before it was raised to 20,000 barrels was two barrels, "but there was a pretty stiff penalty if you surpassed it. That's why we believe 20K is pretty generous!"

Nash accused the Teamsters of using the "typical union thug intimidation tactic message," saying just because the Teamsters oppose the proposed bill doesn't mean they should use "intimidation tactics like this."

While others, including Andrew Wagner, the director of public affairs for the Minnesota House GOP, criticized the Teamsters' tweet. Wagner called it "vaguely disturbing/threatening." 

The Teamsters responded to Nash saying he should consider downloading a "new free app called sense of humor." To which Nash replied, "If you stand by your tweet as simply being humourous, then why did you delete the original tweet? There's an honesty app out there just for you, maybe you should download that one for yourself!"

The conversation ended with the Teamsters saying they hope Nash has a wonderful day.

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Teamsters Joint Council 32 for comment. 

The Teamsters Joint Council 32 is based in Minneapolis and is the umbrella organization for 13 affiliated Teamster Local Unions that represent members in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas, according to its website, including Teamsters Local 792, which represents beer delivery drivers among others. 

The growler cap, which is the only such cap in the country, has long been viewed by critics as an arbitrary rule that punishes successful breweries, forcing them to choose to either stop selling growlers or not expand so they can stay under the 20,000 barrels-per-year cap.

"Year after year, we've come back and have not seen success in moving that cap," Jim Diley, co-founder of Fulton Beer in Minneapolis, said during a news conference last week, noting the growler cap was last raised in 2013 and brewers were told then they'd need to return when the 20,000 barrel limit needed to be raised. "The bottom line is we are a family-run, locally-owned group of breweries that are seeking commonsense change."

Supporters of the bill, which includes several GOP and DFL lawmakers, say Minnesota's craft breweries are small businesses that provide jobs and tourism to their communities, helping local economies as well as bringing in more tax dollars to the state. 

Those who oppose raising the growler cap, including the Teamsters Union, liquor store owners and some in the restaurant industry, have expressed concerns in the past that removing the cap would give an advantage to the state's largest breweries and would hurt the three-tiered distribution system and local retailers. 

This proposal would remove the growler cap altogether, but supporters of the bill note there is already a law that limits total growler sales to 750 barrels a year, protecting the distribution chain and liquor stores from being impacted if some consumers choose to buy beer straight from the brewery instead of at the liquor store. 

It's unclear if this will be the year the Minnesota Legislature finally loosens the growler cap. The state of Minnesota does have a long history of moving slowly when updating the state's antiquated liquor laws (remember the years-long battle to allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays?).

The proposal, H.F. 1050/S.F. 874, was introduced in the House and Senate last week. No hearings on the proposed bill have been scheduled. 

The Star Tribune reported last week that Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, and Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, have not agreed to hold hearings on the bill. They each chair committees that need to approve the bill in order for it to advance through the legislative process.

Stephenson told the paper that they're restricted this year due to the pandemic, so they're only focusing on "mission critical" bills, while Dahms said until stakeholders can come to a compromise on increasing the growler cap he thinks current law is working well, citing growth in the craft beer industry in Minnesota.

In December, when the GOP-controlled Senate was debating an amendment to a COVID relief bill that would have temporarily removed the growler cap, as well as allow to-go cocktails and increase the amount of beer and wine restaurants could sell to-go during the pandemic, Dahms was against the proposal, saying they hadn't had any hearings on it.

"These changes are drastic changes to the way we currently do our liquor situations," he added. "So, when we start talking about breweries, 'all breweries should have the opportunity to sell growlers,' I'm hardpressed to think that a brewery that ... manufactures maybe 100,000 barrels a year needs to be selling growlers with the system they have through the distribution system they have."

The amendment to temporarily remove the growler cap did not pass in the GOP-controlled Senate, so it wasn't included in the final bill.

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