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Willmar, Minn., City Council puts temporary cork in taproom licensing proposal

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council was prepared at its meeting Monday night to set a hearing on adding a new category to the city code allowing for taproom liquor licenses.

But council members temporarily put a cork in the proposal instead, sending it back to the committee level for clarification.

At issue is whether licensed taprooms also can sell growlers, or half-gallon jugs of brew to go, in addition to the beer sold for consumption on the premises.

With no immediate answer to the question, the city is "not prepared" to call yet for a hearing, concluded Kevin Halliday, city clerk.

The growing popularity of micro-breweries and small brewpubs prompted a new Minnesota law in 2011, creating a liquor license category for breweries and brewpubs to sell their product to be consumed on the premises. Several cities have already taken advantage of the law and begun issuing taproom liquor licenses.

There's no brewery or brewpub in Willmar, at least yet. But Halliday said he's had an inquiry from someone suggesting the city make taproom licensing available.

A draft ordinance has already been put together, outlining the provisions for issuing brewer taproom licenses but containing no specific reference to growlers. The Willmar Planning Commission also has begun working on zoning issues and a conditional use permit process.

The City Council did not set a timetable Monday for when the ordinance will be back on the agenda for discussion and action.

Halliday noted that anyone who wants to open a taproom in Willmar would first need to obtain a brewer's license to produce malt liquor. If and when the City Council votes to allow taproom licensing, a separate resolution also would have to be adopted that sets the license fee, he said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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