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Coronavirus In Minnesota: Restaurants, Lawmakers Pressing Gov. Walz To Allow Alcohol-To-Go

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Restaurants want permission to do something they've never done before: sell beer and wine to go.

Minnesota lawmakers, standing alongside metro-area restaurant owners, shared a bipartisan proposal that, if passed, would allow consumers to buy up to two bottles of wine and 144 ounces of beer.

It would be a temporary fix to address declining sales, lasting as long as restaurants are closed. Customers would need to purchase food with their order.

Jason Saji, the general manager of B52 Burgers and Brew, said his sales are down 80-90% amid the pandemic. He has had to lay-off the majority of his staff.

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Right now 16 states allow alcohol to go and some states, like Texas, are even allowing mixed drinks to go.

Although several restaurants have asked for cocktails and liquor to be included to further help boost sales, Rep. Jon Koznick (R - Lakeville) said lawmakers couldn't quickly agree on how to allow that safely. If this proposal is allowed, restaurants must keep their beer and wine in properly sealed containers.

"It would permit bars and restaurants if their dining rooms are closed to have customers purchased 2 bottles of wine or 12, 12-ounce cans of beer or the equivalent,"  Koznick said.

Of the more than 400,000 unemployment requests filed, more than 74,000 have come from the food and beverage service industry.

The governor's current shutdown order extends until May 4 but Mike Jennings, who owns three metro restaurants, isn't counting on it.

"If you are looking at a May 4 opening date most of us find that very difficult to believe because the pandemic will still be in full force," Owner of Scoreboard Restaurant, Mike Jennings explained.

Jennings says because many restaurants are sitting on an inventory of beer and wine, allowing them to sell could mean an immediate revenue stream that could mean the difference between surviving the pandemic or not.

Governor Tim Walz said he supports this measure but says the quickest way to get this in place is for the legislature to pass a bill and he would sign it.

And with the legislature back in session to pass COVID-related bills that could happen as soon as Tuesday.

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