Shutdown Means Some Alcohol Supplies Run Dry

Retailers whose "buyer's cards" are expired, can't get them renewed during the shutdown-meaning once they run out of alcohol, they're unable to buy more. Meanwhile, MillerCoors reportedly must remove its beer from Minnesota bars and stores because it didn't renew its brand licenses prior to the shutdown.

Bars, restaurants, and liquor stores across Minnesota may have licenses to sell alcohol-but during the state shutdown, some are running out of booze and are unable to replenish their supplies.

Retailers apply and receive liquor licenses from their local municipality. But once retailers are approved for the licenses, they're required to buy a $20 “buyer's card” to allow them to purchase alcohol from a licensed wholesaler-the only source from which they can legally buy alcohol.

But as those cards expire, retailers are unable to renew them-because no one from the state's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division is on the job to process the cards, according to Frank Ball, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA).

Ball told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday that his organization-which represents thousands of liquor retailers in the state-petitioned the state to put a clerical staff in place to validate retailers' buyer's cards. He said the group is anxiously awaiting the court-appointed special master's decision on the matter.

According to Ball, some MLBA members have actually purchased and received a receipt for their buyer's cards, but there is no one employed by the state during the shutdown to mail the cards to retailers.

A report by the Star Tribune says that thousands of the state's retailers hurried to try to renew their buyer's cards in the days leading up to the shutdown. Roughly 300 reportedly had cards that expired on June 30 and had no way to renew them, and that number will increase to 425 by the end of this month.

Ball said that bars, restaurants, and stores aren't permitted by law to extend their buying card privileges to other retailers whose permits have expired. They can continue to sell the alcohol that they have on hand.

The state has also stopped issuing the tax stamps that distributors must place on the bottom of every pack of cigarettes before they can be sold-meaning that retailers could soon see a shortage of cigarettes, too, according to the Star Tribune.

Another impact of the shutdown on those who purchase, sell, and drink alcohol in Minnesota: MillerCoors-one of the largest brewers in the country-must devise a plan to remove its 39 brands of beer from store and bar shelves within a few days, the Star Tribune reported. The company reportedly failed to pay $30 brand license fees prior to the government shutdown, so popular beers like Miller High Life, Coors Light, Blue Moon, and many others must be removed.

MillerCoors told the Minneapolis newspaper that they plan to fight the decision. A spokesman for Leinenkugel, which is owned by MillerCoors, said they handle their brand registration separately and it is good until 2013.