An area you may not have thought would be impacted by the state shutdown is alcohol sales, but that is becoming a reality for hundreds of businesses across Minnesota.  Also taking a hit in the near future are cigarette sales because as certain vendors run out, they currently cannot get more to sell.  Not getting the taxes from alcohol and tobacco sales could cost the state millions of dollars.  Governor Mark Dayton could use his executive power to solve this problem until the state shutdown is over, but will he?


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.

When Ross Amundson, owner of M. Amundson Cigar & Candy Company in Bloomington, saw the shutdown coming, he shelled out more than $2 million to buy tax stamps that he hopes will last until mid-August. But with no legislative agreement in sight, he's worried about what comes next.

"We've been in business for 70 years," Amundson said. "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?"

Tom Briant, executive director of the Minnesota Wholesale Marketers Association, said that "in September is when we would expect to see a shortage of cigarettes begin."

Problem will spread

Of the roughly 10,000 establishments that sell liquor in Minnesota, most of those who needed to renew their buyer purchasing cards managed to do so before the July 1 shutdown started. About 300 were caught with cards that expired on June 30 and no way to renew the permits.

That number will grow to 425 by the end of the month, according to state officials, and grow as more cards expire at random intervals.

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