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Mix-up at Capitol grand opening party over booze breaks state law

ST. PAUL—With all the major details checked and double checked to celebrate the Minnesota Capitol's grand restoration, one little thing was overlooked: the booze.

Specifically, the state law requiring all wines, beer and spirits at the Capitol celebration to be Minnesota-made.

At a private gathering in advance of the three-day Capitol party there was liquor created outside Minnesota's borders. A certain make of tequila may have been poured since 1795, but that golden liquor — spotted in a photo provided to the Pioneer Press of the Capitol party Thursday evening — should not have been on offer under the St. Paul dome.

News of the error spread like a spilled drink.

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, said he started getting messages about it pretty quickly Thursday.

"It is supposed to be Minnesota-made, and apparently none of it was," he said. Both Thursday night and Friday he sent off messages to the Department of Administration about the problem. "They fumbled the ball last night."

Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, who sponsored the law about the booze, was also put on high alert. She said that since the people of Minnesota invested $310 million through their tax money, the people of Minnesota should see some payoff through the economics of locally sourced spirits.

"I think there was a breakdown of communication," she said.

Shortly after the Capitol's grand opening celebration, replete with a red-ribbon cutting, speeches, cheers and soaring music, Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman said Loeffler was right.

"We hope to correct that immediately," Massman said, after posing for photos with two former administration commissioners who helped bring the restored Capitol to fruition. He said state officials talked to the state's vendors to make absolutely clear that all beer, wine and spirits served had to be made in Minnesota.

Nash said sourcing any alcoholic beverage in Minnesota would not be a problem — the state not only has lots of craft brewers but also vintners making award-winning wine and folks who create bourbon, gin, vodka and even grappa, an unaged brandy made from the remains of pressed grapes or olives.

"You could have a wide array of anything you want that is made in Minnesota," he said.

Loeffler said she's glad the issue has been solved.

"I'm looking forward to toasting the Minnesota Capitol with a Minnesota product," she said.