County Board OKs seasonal liquor license for Chateau

Published 5:49 pm Friday, April 16, 2021

The Mower County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a seasonal on-sale liquor license for Chateau Raceway in face of hardships brought on by 3.2 beer sales.

The approval of the license, however, hinges on approval from the Mower County Sheriff’s Department, County Attorney and the Lansing Township Board, which Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Scott Felten said were, “normal steps in the process.”

The reason for Chateau’s request comes as the raceway is struggling with getting 3.2 beer supplied to the track for this summer’s season.

A Minnesota law, which many consider archaic, dictates that only 3.2 beer can be sold in grocery and convenience stores. It is now the only state in the Union to mandate where 3.2 beer can be sold.

In response to this trend, distributors around the country determined that the expense of making 3.2 beer wasn’t worth it just for Minnesota and began pulling back, causing a disruption in sales.

This is hurting supply of the 3.2 market and pinching places like Chateau.

“Distributors are not able to get that product anymore because Minnesota is the only state that allows that,” Felten explained to the board during its Tuesday meeting. “Businesses are caught in the middle.”

The seasonal license is essentially a full liquor license, Felten explained, and will allow Chateau to offer stronger beers. Chateau initially eyed a wine license that would have given them access to the stronger beers, but a requirement that states a business must be able to accommodate at least 25 people for indoor seating brought that to an end.

Other establishments have run into the same problem, including Meadow Greens Golf Course, but they were able to get around it and get a wine license because they can offer the required indoor seating that would accommodate the license’s requirements.

Early in 2020, before COVID-19 shutdown the country, Sen. Karin Housley sought to change the 3.2 law in grocery and convenience stores. However, that created other worries among liquor store owners that should the law change and stronger beers be allowed at grocery and convenience stores, then the smaller liquor stores that rely strongly on beer sales would be hurt.

As it currently sits though, businesses like Chateau are being placed between a rock and a hard place as more and more distributors keep moving away from 3.2 sales.

“Basically businesses are at the mercy of breweries,” Felten said.