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Sunday 'growler' sales in jeopardy due to union opposition

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A powerful union is throwing up a roadblock to passage of a bill that would allow craft breweries to sell beer on Sundays, MPR News reports.

The provision would be one small exception to Minnesota's ban on Sunday alcohol sales. Craft brewers could open taprooms and sell growlers -- refillable half-gallon containers of beer -- to customers on Sundays, and the measure appeared headed for passage in the Legislature as part of the liquor omnibus bill.

But the Teamsters stepped in to object, and now the bill's passage is in jeopardy.

According to MPR, a liquor distributor who employs Teamster members told union leaders that if the bill passed, he would be allowed to reopen labor contracts. The union is concerned that would put workers' wages and benefits back on the bargaining table.

"As soon as we had an employer raise the potential that they were going to ask for a reopener, I reached out to leadership, I reached out to the Senate Committee chair," Teamster's Union political director Ed Reynoso told MPR. "I notified them of our objections and our concerns."

Reynoso did not reveal name of the business.

Craft brewers in Minnesota are frustrated by the turn of events. They've been lobbying heavily for the right to do business on Sundays, noting that their industry is a growing part of the state's tourism economy.

Rockie Kavajecz, owner of Canal Park Brewing Company in Duluth, told Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin his city is gaining a reputation as a destination for craft beer lovers, and it's bad for business when taprooms can't serve customers or sell growlers on Sundays. “It’s not just about beer, it’s about customer relations,” he said.

The growler measure is just one part of the omnibus liquor bill under consideration in both houses of the Legislature. The omnibus bill also includes provisions to reauthorize alcohol sales at TCF Bank stadium this fall, and to extend bar hours during the All-Star Game week this summer in Minneapolis.

It's not yet clear how lawmakers will handle the union's objections to the growler provision. The Legislature is on break this week.

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