The Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously on January 26 to remove longstanding regulations that allowed only 3.2 beer to be consumed in designated city parks.

The change, which was discussed during a public hearing on January 19 and drew no discernible opposition, will allow the consumption of beverages with up to 5.5 percent alcohol in the parks. That includes seltzers, prepackaged drinks and wine coolers as well as beer. It also is expected to make enforcement easier for park security and police.

Hard seltzers, prepackaged drinks, wine coolers and beer with up to 5.5 percent alcohol will be allowed in designated Saint Paul parks, including Highland.

Anyone wanting to imbibe stronger alcoholic beverages, such as liquor and wine, would still have to obtain a temporary liquor license from the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections.

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The previous ordinance stated that no consumption of alcoholic beverages stronger than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight is permitted in any city park without an approved temporary liquor license. Mike Hahm, director of the city’s Department Parks and Recreation, called that regulation “obsolete.”

“The change will make it easier on our customers and easier on those who enforce the rules,” Hahm said. He noted that it is increasingly difficult to even find 3.2 beer.

Other rules involving alcohol in the city’s parks will not change. Alcohol can only be consumed between 8 a.m.-8 p.m. at designated parks and picnic areas. Those include Cherokee Park, Como Park, Harriet Island Park, Raspberry Island, Upper Landing Park, City House, Highland Park, Phalen Park, the Rice-Arlington and McMurray athletic complexes, and Dunning Field. Consumption of alcohol in other parks is not allowed.

“The change will make it easier on our customers and easier on those who enforce the rules,” Hahm said. He noted that it is increasingly difficult to even find 3.2 beer.

City parks spokesperson Clare Cloyd said that the city typically gets fewer than 20 temporary liquor license requests per year to serve or sell alcohol above the current 3.2 limit for small-scale events. The city also sees fewer than 20 liquor license requests for large-scale events, such as the Irish Fair of Minnesota and Saint Paul Winter Carnival.

The sale of 3.2 beer is a relic of the Prohibition Era (1929-33) when alcohol was banned in the United States. For nine months in 1933 as Prohibition was being repealed, it was the highest alcohol content beer allowed to be produced legally. 

By 2019, only Minnesota and Utah still banned grocery and convenience stores to sell anything stronger than 3.2 beer. Utah dropped its 3.2 restrictions in 2020, leaving Minnesota as the last state in the country where 3.2 beer is sold. Many breweries have discontinued production of 3.2 beer because of low consumer demand.

— Jane McClure

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