Minnesota government shutdown causes beer shortage

Posted Jul 15, 2011 by Kim I. Hartman
The Minnesota government shutdown is about to bring the beer industry to its knees as at least one major brewing company has been ordered to remove its beer from the shelves of stores and bars after their brand license expired.
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The MillerCoors brewing company is the first to be impacted by the state shutdown after they were told they must immediately stop distribution in the state until they can renew their brand registration.
A Minnesota statue requires that "all beer manufactured, imported into, or sold in the state be registered with and approved by the commissioner. The registration must be renewed every three years in order to remain in effect."
The Star Tribune reports "MillerCoors began the renewal process during the month of June, but sent a check for more then the amount due. The beer-maker dispatched another check to the beer licensing division, which was received on June 27, but this didn't stop the state from sending them a letter on June 30 notifying them their brand license had expired."
A day later Minnesota state government was forced to shutdown, for the second time in six years, effectively locking the doors to the state agency that would handle the renewal of the license. The shutdown occurred after lawmakers failed to reach a budget agreement by midnight on June 30.
MillerCoors, which supplies 38% of the beer sold in the state isn't the only one feeling the effect of the shutdown, that has put 22,000 state employees of out of work. Thousands of bars, restaurants and stores throughout the state faced the prospect of expired state issued liquor purchasing cards July 1. Many hurried to renew their licenses but some failed to complete the task in time.
"It's going to cripple our industry," said Frank Ball, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents thousands of liquor retailers in the state, reports the Star Tribune.
MillerCoors has been looking into ways to keep their product on the market during the government shutdown but Doug Neville, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said, "I would suspect within days to see that product leave the shelves." MillerCoors will not be the only maker of brew faced with a licensing issue, said Neville. Anheuser-Busch's brand registration is set to expire in October.
MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch dominate the sale of all beer in Minnesota.
Beer isn't the only causality of the state government shutdown. Cigarette sales may soon be affected by a shortage of tax stamps, that are required to be affixed to the bottom of each pack sold. The state has stopped issuing the stamps, according to the Star Tribune.
One cigarette distributor, Ross Amundson, told the paper he was concerned with what will happen once his supply of tax stamps are gone. "We've been in business for 70 years. My family started it. And all of a sudden this whole thing is going to screw us over? What happens to these retailers that we cover?"
Truckers are also experiencing the fallout from the Minnesota state budget problems, with a judge recently ruling the states highway rest areas will remain closed during the shutdown. Truck drivers, responsible for delivering the beer, cigarettes and other goods throughout the state, said they need the rest areas to remain open to meet their mandatory rest periods.
Until the budget dispute is resolved, beer drinkers in Minnesota will be reaching for another brand of brew instead of their beverage of choice.