Liquor Laws: Legislature Should Tweak Hotel License Law

Story originally published in The Mankato Free Press.

It may be a small matter to legislators and the general public that hotels with fewer than 25 rooms cannot offer a mini-bar to patrons.

But it’s a big deal if you’re a startup small boutique hotel trying to offer the marketplace something that it doesn’t have. The law as it stands hampers the service offered at the Arch + Cable, a new boutique hotel with 20 rooms in the Bridge Plaza building at 201 N. Riverfront Drive.

Current law required hotels in cities with 20,000 to 100,000 people to allow liquor licenses only if a hotel has at least 25 rooms and a dining room. No one seems to know the reasoning behind the numbers. So local area legislators have worked on bipartisan legislation to change the requirement to 20 rooms or a dining room.

The company brought the restriction to the attention of legislators and Greater Mankato Growth, the regional chamber of commerce. Fortunately, the provision for the exception to the prohibition was attached to the Senate Omnibus Commerce bill last week and appears to have no opposition from the House.

But it’s another example of Minnesota’s quirky liquor laws that still prohibit grocery stores from selling alcohol. It has been just in the last few years that liquor stores could sell on Sundays. We’re not sure exactly where these odd laws come from, but we suspect it might have something to do with Minnesota’s history in Prohibition. Andrew Volstead, a southwestern Minnesota Congressman spearheaded the “Volstead Act” which was the formal name Prohibition in the 1920s and 30s.

But we shouldn’t let history, however one views it, to be the barrier to free and fair trade when it comes to alcohol. There’s no reason to deny small hotels the ability to provide a service large hotels can provide.

The mini bars are considered a significant service of operating the new hotel that doesn’t have an in-house bar or restaurant, according to Cate DeBates, who is part owner of Arch + Cable.

GMG Executive Vice President Andy Wilke noted that changing the legislation may help other such boutique hotel projects that are becoming more popular everywhere.

And that’s even more reason the Legislature should quickly and easily approve this. It seems to be a slam dunk, but with how long it has taken to pass other changes to Minnesota’s out of date liquor laws, there’s always a chance someone will oppose and stop the plan.

We urge legislators to make it sure the change happens and remove a barrier to a new business that is finding favor with the traveling public.

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