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World Cup exception opens door for middle-of-night serving at Minnesota bars

A “5 o'clock somewhere” provision in the law will give Minnesota bars a chance to serve liquor 30 minutes before, during and 30 minutes after the live broadcast of FIFA World Cup matches. Local

Fans watch the World Cup
Bret Busakowski, from left, Thomas Farell and Mark Florence react to a play during the first half of a 2014 World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Ghana. The three were among a crowd of soccer fans watching the game at Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub in Duluth.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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ST. PAUL — In a rare move earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill relaxing some of the state’s liquor laws, opening new sales opportunities for the state’s craft brewing industry.

But tucked into the bill that relaxed restrictions on growler and six-pack sales was a section tailored to fans of the world’s most popular sport. A “5 o'clock somewhere” provision in the law will give Minnesota bars a chance to serve liquor 30 minutes before, during and 30 minutes after the live broadcast of FIFA World Cup matches. Local governments may issue permits to establishments that want to serve during live broadcasts of games, even if kickoff is 4 a.m.

The World Cup, the highest level of international soccer competition (or "football" as the rest of the world knows it), started Sunday in the small Gulf state of Qatar. The country is nine hours ahead of U.S. Central time, meaning some games will be broadcast in the wee hours of the morning in the United States.

Seven of those games are set to broadcast 4 a.m. Central time, well after the latest legal bar close of 2 a.m. and well before the earliest time bars can serve alcohol, 8 a.m. Another seven matches begin at 7 a.m., so what are Minnesota soccer fans to do if they want to gather at a bar like followers of other sports more popular in the U.S.?

In the lead-up to the international tournament, that question was on the mind of Wes Burdine, the owner of Black Hart on University Avenue in St. Paul, who wrote to his local representatives in the Legislature in the hopes of getting the law changed.

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“And they just kind of said, well, there's nothing we can do. And this was three years ago — because I've been planning this for a long time,” he said, adding, however, that this year was different because there was actual momentum on a liquor bill in the Legislature.

Burdine had a chat with Roseville Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, a regular at Black Hart and soccer fan herself, who carried the bill in the Legislature and got it passed as part of a broader liquor law earlier this year.

A few establishments in Minneapolis are also hoping to use expanded hours during the World Cup, but it appears just three are taking advantage of the law. The city clerk of Duluth said the city had created a permitting process but had not received any applications. The city of Rochester did not immediately reply to inquiries about its policy or if any bars planned to use the expanded hours.

Dubh Linn Brew Pub in Duluth is hosting many World Cup events in November and December, but owner Mike Maxim said he wasn’t aware of the law when reached by phone ahead of the tournament. He said he’d explore options but didn’t know if he had staffing.

The expanded hours provision also applies to the FIFA Women's World Cup set to kick off July 2023 in host nations Australia and New Zealand. It is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2023.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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