Sunday Alcohol Sales On the Brink of Passage in Indiana

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We've been extensively covering the push to repeal Indiana's "blue law," which is one of the most restrictive in the country. According to the Indianapolis Star, a bill allowing Sunday carryout alcohol sales is finally on the brink of passage:

"Hoosiers could begin purchasing carryout alcohol on Sunday for the first time in state history on March 4, barring any unexpected developments at the Statehouse. 

That date is not certain, but it does seem likely after the the Indiana House voted 82-10 on Tuesday to end the state's unpopular ban on Sunday take-out alcohol sales.

The measure still requires one more vote in the Senate, but it is largely procedural since the Senate already passed an almost identical version. It would then go to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has said he plans to sign it into law. 

That puts the bill on pace to be signed into law as early as next week, and because it was recently amended to take effect upon passage, Hoosiers could purchase alcohol the following Sunday, March 4..."

Read the rest here.

Trump Administration's Proposed Aluminum Tariffs Could Raise Beer Prices

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Last week, the Commerce Department unveiled a proposal to raise tariffs on imported aluminum, which as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports could raise the price of a six-pack:

The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended the tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports, or higher tariffs — up to 53% — on imports from specific countries.

The measures are aimed at bolstering the U.S. aluminum and steel industries, which have been hit hard by imports, especially from China...

Critics say the actions could harm many U.S. industries, including breweries and canned vegetable companies that use imported metal for product containers. 

'Anything that raises our raw material costs will affect the bottom line,' said Henry Schwartz, founder and CEO of MobCraft Beer, a Milwaukee brewery. Even if a brewer wanted to switch to all bottles, Schwartz added, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional equipment, and it wouldn't appeal to a lot of consumers. 

How much would tariffs add to the price of a six pack? The industry says for every dollar worth of beer produced in the U.S., brewers spend about a dime for cans and roughly five cents for aluminum. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it quickly adds up as brewers produce more than $55 billion worth of beer annually..."

Read more here.

Is California Cracking Down on Booze in Shared Office Spaces?

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Shared offices--which offers those without physical offices the ability to rent office space--have become increasingly popular in modern times. Many shared office companies offer attractive perks in their offices, such as snacks, coffee, and even booze. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, alcohol in shared offices spaces has attracted the attention of the California government:

Inside WeWork, a co-working company that caters to young professionals with its amenity-heavy spaces, some members in California have been asking: Where did the beer go?

Easy-to-rent desks with plenty of Silicon Valley-style perks, including beer, have long been part of the sales pitch to WeWork’s tenants and investors, and helped propel the company to a $20 billion valuation.

But when the taps recently got shut off in California, some startups housed at WeWork wondered what happened...

Companies don’t need a liquor license to provide alcohol in their offices, as long as the employees aren’t paying for it. But WeWork, which is based in New York and has a number of Bay Area locations, is in an unusual situation. It’s a landlord, not an employer, to the people working in its buildings. And that puts it in a gray area under the law — highlighting how innovative businesses create new legal questions faster than regulators can keep up...

WeWork doesn’t have a liquor license in California — and under state law, it’s not clear whether it can go without one if it wants to serve alcohol to building occupants. When asked about the beer removal, a spokesman said the company is talking to state officials, but declined to elaborate..."

Read the rest here.

The Legislature Strikes Back: KY Lawmakers Resist Uncapping State Liquor Licenses

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As previously noted, Kentucky liquor regulators recently proposed scrapping the state's quota system for liquor licenses (which limits licenses based on population). According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, some state legislators are resistant to the idea and a key Senate committee has now approved a bill that would block regulators from changing the quota:

Retail liquor dealers won their first fight Tuesday in the Kentucky legislature against state alcohol officials, who have proposed scrapping limits on the number of liquor stores in the state.

On an 8-3 vote, a Senate committee signed off on Senate Bill 110, a measure sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Higdon, that would stop Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration from eliminating the state’s liquor license quota system...

Higdon, R-Lebanon, said his bill would write into law existing state regulations that limit the number of licenses available for retail package liquor stores and by-the-drink sales of liquor... Higdon argued that ending the quota system would hurt existing liquor businesses and betray voters who approved alcohol sales with the understanding that the number of stores would be limited..."

Read more here.

Here We Go Again: Maryland Legislator Introduces Bill to Limit Brewery Taproom Sales

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Maryland was the scene of an ugly battle over craft beer legislation last year, and the political climate does not appear to be getting any better. A controversial beer bill, HB 1283, was eventually modified to allow breweries in the state to sell 2,000 barrels annually in their taprooms. While brewers in the state were hopeful that this limit would be increased even more in the future--as proposed by Maryland's "Reform on Tap" task force which conducted a review of the state's beer laws--it appears some lawmakers want to move in the opposite direction. The Baltimore Sun reports:

"A bill introduced by Maryland Dels. Talmadge Branch and Dereck Davis seeks to roll back how much beer small breweries in Maryland can serve in their taprooms while allowing larger facilities, such as the one being built in Baltimore County by Guinness, to maintain existing limits.

House Bill 1052 calls for reducing annual limits from the existing 2,000 barrels to 500 barrels at small breweries while allowing large facilities to continue to sell 2,000 barrels of beer — which equates to about 1,800 glasses of beer a day.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has proposed legislation to lift all limits, immediately opposed the bill...

Franchot wrote that his legislation, the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, “will eliminate the arbitrary limits and change the laws that benefit corporate beer monopolies at the expense of our local, independent craft brewers.” His reform bill emerged from a task force he put together last year.

He said his bill and the one introduced by Branch and Davis will be heard on the same day in Annapolis — Feb. 23..."

Read the rest here.

Back From the Dead? South Carolina May Solidify Its Liquor Store Cap

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Last year, South Carolina's Supreme Court struck down a state law that limited (to 3) the number of liquor stores a single owner could operate within the state. The court rejected the law under the state constitution since it was merely a form of raw economic protectionism. (R Street's Jarrett Dieterle wrote both an op-ed and a policy short about the case.)

Now, according to the Post & Courier, politicians in the Palmetto State might extend the cap anyways:

"Advocates of preserving South Carolina’s three-store limit for liquor licenses are hoping legislators quickly pass a bill to keep liquor off the shelves of grocery stores and pharmacies statewide.

The state Supreme Court struck down the limit last year as unconstitutional — a victory for Total Wine & More, which has stores in Charleston, Greenville and Columbia and wanted to open a fourth in South Carolina.

Days later, legislators passed a compromise maintaining the license limit for one year. That expires April 5. A bi-partisan bill up for debate on the S.C. House floor would preserve the cap indefinitely...."

Read the rest here.

Vermont Starts Fining Bartender for Making Infusions

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In the age of the craft cocktail boom, bartenders and mixologists are increasingly experimenting with infusions and other creatively flavored spirits to jazz up their cocktails. But in Vermont, that's illegal, and the state is starting to fine bartenders who disobey, according to WCAX 3:

"You might have seen it circulating online. Hundreds of signatures on a petition from Vermont bartenders demanding change to an old regulation that they say keeps them from trying new things with your drinks.

Whether you like them shaken or stirred, craft cocktails are creative in Vermont.

But local bartenders say a recent crackdown by the state liquor department is a buzzkill.

'Something that people loved here at El Gato is our infused tequilas,' said Tree Bertram, El Gato owner.

El Gato was recently fined $510 by the state for putting peppers in their tequila. That's illegal under current Vermont rules which ban businesses from changing liquor and then putting it back in a bottle..."

Read the rest here.

Alabama Lawmaker Seeks to Allow Direct Wine Shipments

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The Alabama legislator is currently considering a bill that would legalize direct shipments from wineries to consumers in the state. The proposal is likely to face resistance, reports ABC 33/40:

"A push is underway to allow wine shipments directly to Alabama homes.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia already allow this option to consumers, according to The Wine Institute.

At Ozan Winery in Calera, Chris Smith sells the vineyard’s award winning wine to people across the county. But he faces a problem when Alabamians want wine shipped directly to their homes...

Wednesday, a Senate committee meeting was scheduled to have a public hearing on a bill by Sen. Bill Holzclaw (R- Madison) that would allow the direct wine shipments.

Committee chairman, Sen. Phil Williams (R- Rainbow City) says Holtzclaw asked lawmakers to wait a little longer, probably so he could work out some issues on the bill before the vote.

There was a list of opponents ready to speak, including Joe Godfrey who represents a group of churches..."

Read the rest here.

 

 

Mississippi Legislature Kills Bill Allowing Direct Wine Shipments

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A state legislator in Mississippi recently introduced a bill that would have legalized direct wine shipments from wineries and retailers to Mississippians. Apparently, the bill has already died, according to The Northside Sun:

"House Bill 98, which would allow direct sales and shipments of wine to state residents, died in committee on January 30.

But, author of the bill, District 111 Rep. Charles Busby, says he’s fighting to bring the bill back for the 2019 legislative session. The idea came to Busby after he and his wife travelled out of town. They found a wine they loved and couldn’t ship it to their home in Gulfport...

Busby said he believes HB 98 didn’t pass because of a liquor store lobby, which is against wine and liquor sales bypassing local shops..."

Read more here.

Positive Early Returns for Federal Alcohol Tax Cuts

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As part of the recent tax reform legislation, Congress cut federal excise taxes on alcohol. (R Street's Jarrett Dieterle an Kevin Kosar summarized the recent tax changes for booze here). The Seven Fifty Daily interviews numerous drinks producers who are praising the recent changes and pointing out how they've helped boost their businesses:

It’s an exciting year for Wigle Whiskey: The family-owned Pittsburgh distillery will get a $100,000 boost in 2018 thanks to new tax laws passed by the United States Congress at the end of 2017...

Included in the tax overhaul is the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act—the first update to alcohol tax laws since 1991—which Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates will bring $4.2 billion in tax savings to the industry over two years.

'It’s monumental,' says Bob Pease, the president and CEO of the Brewers Association, which represents small and independent craft brewers. Mark Shilling, the president of the board of directors of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA), calls the new legislation 'the biggest deal for the spirits production part of the industry since Prohibition.'

For Wigle Whiskey, 'it’s game changing,' says Meredith Meyer Grelli, one of the distillery’s owners. With the expected tax savings, her eight-year-old business is hiring another distiller and a marketing production manager, bringing the number of full-time employees to 20. Plans also include the increase in production of their 30,000-proof-gallon distillery by 20 percent. 'It’s a funny situation for us,' Grelli says, 'because we’ve personally never been on the front lines of pushing for tax reductions. It’s not really a part of our personal politics, but I can tell you now, living through this, I can see the impact.'..."

Read the whole piece here.