The Painful Human Cost Of Government Shutdownby Brad Warbiany
Hundreds of bars, restaurants and stores across Minnesota are running out of beer and alcohol and others may soon run out of cigarettes — a subtle and largely unforeseen consequence of a state government shutdown.
In the days leading up to the shutdown, thousands of outlets scrambled to renew their state-issued liquor purchasing cards. Many of them did not make it.
Now, with no end in sight to the shutdown, they face a summer of fast-dwindling alcohol supplies and a bottom line that looks increasingly bleak.
“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.
The Ugly Mug, a popular bar near Target Field, doesn’t have enough beer to get through the baseball season.
“Our inventories are diminishing rapidly over the next month,” owner Erik Forsberg said. He was among a cluster of bar and restaurant owners who appealed Tuesday to a court-appointed special master to be allowed to continue buying alcohol during the shutdown. “When [the Twins are] back on Thursday and people can’t get Budweiser and they can’t get whatever, they’re just going to go somewhere else.”
Come Labor Day, cigarette smokers will be in the same bind.
The state has stopped issuing the tax stamps that distributors must glue to the bottom of every pack before it’s sold for retail.
I wonder what’s going to happen to all the normal restaurants because they can’t renew their state-issued food purchase licenses? And to the gas stations who can’t renew their state-issued gas purchase licenses? If the government doesn’t exist to grant its blessing to purchases, isn’t the state going to entirely shut down?
Perhaps I’m being a bit flippant here. But more accurately, we’re simply looking at an unintended consequence of antiquated blue laws that suggest that state government has a legitimate role in the controlling the wholesale distribution of alcohol — NOT the retail distribution, mind you. I’m sure the liquor licenses of these vendors aren’t in question, or they couldn’t serve booze now. So this restriction is doing nothing to change whether or not underage minors can purchase liquor — only whether legitimate liquor-license-holding bars and restaurants can purchase form wholesalers.
This, more accurately, is simply a problem that is to be expected when you must ask government permission in order to operate and earn your livelihood. When the government isn’t around to answer their phone, you’re stuck in the unenviable position of losing your income or breaking the law. The fact that individual establishments need a license to even purchase wholesale liquor is the problem. That some bars may run dry due to this government shutdown is merely a symptom.
State governments need to start treating alcohol more like any other product — at least in the distribution pipeline. At the retail level, it can clearly be argued that laws against underage purchase are justifiable, but in the distribution chain, the state government need not be involved AT ALL.