Guinness' decision to build in Baltimore County an example of free trade that Trump doesn't like

In case you missed it, R Street's Clark Packard previously wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Business Journal about the trade policy implications of Guinness' decision to expand in Maryland: 

Diageo Beer Co. USA will open a Guinness brewery in Baltimore County, assuming the Maryland General Assembly approves a new kind of liquor licensethat would allow it to serve up to 5,000 barrels annually in the tap room. That's a huge increase from the 500 barrels allowed by state law.

Diageo, a British-based alcohol company, estimates that it will invest $50 million and create “up to 70 jobs.” Gov. Larry Hogan rightly noted that the announcement is “great news for job creation, manufacturing, and tourism” in Maryland. As a resident of Washington, D.C., and a frequent consumer of Guinness Stout, I will be one of the beer tourists Governor Hogan described – happily spending my dollars in the Old Line State...

Read the whole thing here:


Montgomery County, Maryland to ID People of All Ages Buying Alcohol

As if its drinks laws were not already infamous enough, Maryland's Montgomery County will now require ID from every single customer attempting to purchase alcohol in its county-run liquor stores. But what if you're 85-years-old, you ask? Sorry, show us that ID:

"Trying to buy alcohol in Montgomery County, Maryland? You should expect to get carded even if you're much older than 21. 

Anyone who wants to purchase alcohol in the county should expect to get carded under rules set to go into effect in July.

Starting July 1, employees at all 27 liquor stories run by the county will ask for age identification for every person making a purchase, no matter their age..." 

Read more: 

R Street's Kevin Kosar has previously written about Montgomery County's drinks laws here.


Kentucky lawmaker charged with breaking liquor law he tried to change

From the Lexington Herald Leader comes news that a Kentucky state representative has been charged with violating a state law that requires alcohol being delivered to retail outlets to only be transported in state-approved vehicles. The lawmaker, who owns a chain of liquor retail stores in the state, was transporting liquor between his stores when he was caught. He now could face a fine or even jail time:

"State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, has been charged with breaking one of the half-dozen liquor laws he attempted to change during the 2017 General Assembly.

Morgan, 66, who owns a chain of Liquor World retail stores in south-central Kentucky, was charged April 26 with illegally transporting alcoholic beverages through dry or moist territory.

A Barbourville police officer said he caught Morgan illegally carrying “a large amount of assorted liquor” in the back of a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, according to the police citation. Morgan told the officer he was moving the liquor between his stores.

Under Kentucky law, alcohol can be delivered to retail outlets or bars only by vehicles that have a state-approved transporter’s license. The crime with which Morgan is charged is a Class B misdemeanor that can bring up to 90 days in jail, a $250 fine or both..."

Read more here:



Alcohol law changes in Maui, Hawaii cause firestorm

Maui County, Hawaii recently loosened its alcohol laws to allow residents to purchase booze 24/7 and to receive home delivery of alcohol, among other changes:

"Alcohol can now be purchased 24 hours a day at retail stores and hotels across Maui County — the first county in Hawaii to eliminate restrictions on the hours of sale.

The rules were approved by the county Liquor Control Commission at its Feb. 8 and March 8 meetings and signed into law by Mayor Alan Arakawa earlier this month. They allow liquor licensees, such as supermarkets and liquor stores, to sell alcohol past the former 11 p.m. deadline.

Many store and hotel managers were unaware of the new law when contacted Wednesday and were unsure how they would react to the change. Supporters of the change called it necessary and overdue, while police and community members were left baffled..."

For more see:

Now, in response to the changes, opposition groups have filed a lawsuit in local court. The groups argue that the process by which the rule changes were implemented was impermissible:

"Kihei resident Madge Schaefer and the Committee for Responsible Liquor Control filed a lawsuit in 2nd Circuit Court on Friday seeking the repeal of recent rule changes approved by the Liquor Control Commission that included the removal of blackout periods for the sale of alcohol, allowed home delivery of alcoholic products and removed the cap on the number of hostess bars.

The commission has come under fire for approving the changes on Feb. 8, with Schaefer and others in the community questioning

whether there was proper public notice and comment. Schaefer filed a Sunshine Law complaint against the commission over the notice for the meeting and a group has formed, the Coalition to Repeal 24-Hour Alcohol Sales, to protest the changes. The Coalition consists of law enforcement groups, youth and substance abuse treatment organizations, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and religious officials..."

Read more at:

Perhaps in reaction to the controversy surrounding these changes, the Commission has announced that it will reconsider its decision:


Cheers to promoting free-market principles in liquor sale

R Street's Christian Cámara wrote an op-ed for the Sun-Sentinel on the Florida legislature's recent move to loosen rules that restrict what stores liquor can be sold in:

The Florida Legislature last week acted to join the majority of states in modernizing its alcohol sales laws. Senate Bill 106, which currently awaits Gov. Rick Scott‘s signature, repeals an unnecessary and costly regulation that prevented grocery stores and other businesses who hold liquor licenses and already sell beer and wine inside of their stores from being able to sell distilled spirits inside their stores also.

This commonsense legislation removes government from decisions businesses make about how they operate, while granting brick-and-mortar establishments the freedom to find innovative ways to compete with the convenience of a growing online marketplace.

Many who read about the legislation — often referred to in the press as the “Whiskey and Wheaties” bill — never make it past the headline to understand the bill was less about liquor sales and more about allowing the free market into an industry that long has been dominated by government protectionism. Simply put, in keeping with Prohibition-era restrictions, the government has kept its thumb on the scale to assist one business model over another — a practice that is inherently unfair to both businesses and consumers...

Read Cámara's whole op-ed here:

The legislation now heads to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's desk. The governor is facing intense pressure from lobbyists hoping for a veto, as covered here

R Street and Cámara have previously written and testified about this legislation, as covered here, here, and here.


New Washington laws cover liquor samples, wine auctions, tasting rooms


Washington State recently adopted a host of changes to its alcohol laws, as reported by Jim Camden of The Spokesman-Review

"Customers sampling liquor at Washington craft distilleries can have their half shot with water or soda. Charities can auction wine to raise money. Craft distilleries can get a license to store their liquor in a warehouse.

Wineries can have twice as many tasting rooms, where they can sell growlers and kegs of their products as well as samples. Mead is officially defined in state law.

These and other changes are being made to the state’s liquor laws, which undergo yearly revisions to meet growing demand, changing consumer tastes and the movement away from state control of key aspects of the sale of and distribution of alcohol.

“The system is a legacy of prohibition,” said Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane. “The big jolt was the privatization of liquor in 2012. That has created an ongoing series of legislation as the state transitions.”

Washington enacted prohibition before the nation did, and when the national amendment was repealed, the state kept tight control of alcohol sales. Washington voters did away with that in 2012 by passing Initiative 1183, but the state still licenses businesses that make, distribute and sell alcoholic products through its Liquor and Cannabis Board..."

Read more here:

Georgia Governor Signs Booze Bill Into Law, Allowing Direct Sales at Breweries and Distilleries

Georgia recently enacted a set of reforms that will allow breweries and distilleries to sell their products directly to consumers, as well as allowing them to offer on-site sales of booze to visitors. As Eater: Atlanta reports:

"Georgia Governor Nathan Deal just made sweeping changes to the state’s alcohol regulations official, signing Senate Bill 85 into law on Monday. The legislation allows breweries and distilleries sell directly to consumers, and it will go into effect September 1...

The bill passed both houses of the state legislature and was sent to Governor Deal’s desk in MarchFirst introduced in the Georgia Senate in January, it updates state law to allow breweries to sell 3,000 barrels of their beer per year directly to customers. Upon Senate passage, the House took up a substitute that added language to allow local distilleries to directly sell 500 barrels of spirits per year. For off-site consumption, thirsty Georgians will be able to purchase up to a case of beer and three 750 ml bottles of liquor at a time from brewers and distillers, respectively.

The new law loosens regulations that required the state’s breweries and distilleries to distribute their products through wholesalers... The most noticeable change for local booze aficionados may be how breweries and distilleries offer drinks for on-site consumption. No longer will they be forced to offer paid tours of their facilities that come with limited samples of their beverages..."

Read the whole thing here:

This reform is a marked improvement over the previous status quo in Georgia, in which brewers were merely allowed to offer a "free souvenir" of up to 72oz. of take-home beer to visitors who paid for a brewery tour, as discussed by R Street's Jarrett Dieterle in a piece for The Federalist


State House tightens reins on Texas breweries

The Texas House took a big step against craft breweries recently, including reducing their ability to sell directly to consumers:

"The Texas House on Saturday voted overwhelming to place new constraints on craft breweries that grow beyond a set size or become acquired by a larger beer company.

Supporters of House Bill 3287 also fought back efforts to amend the legislation to give craft brewers the right to sell some beer on site for consumers to take home - something the smaller brewers have tried to secure for years.

HB 3287, blasted as anti-competitive by critics, is opposed by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild and Anheuser-Busch InBev as well as pro-business groups and a conservative Texas think tank.

'Now we prepare for the Senate battle,' guild executive director Charles Vallhonrat said after the vote..."

Read more at:

Will Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Un-Bentley the ABC's liquor tax hike?

R Street's Cameron Smith wrote about Alabama's attempt to smuggle a tax increase into the state budget through the vehicle of a liquor markup. As Smith points out: "The point of the ABC isn't to craft state budget policy with its markup authority. In fact, there's a pretty good argument that the ABC doesn't really have much of a point at all." The whole thing is worth reading:

The bureaucrats of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) are poised to pass a legally-suspect tax hike, and the Alabama Legislature is complicit. The only question left is whether Gov. Kay Ivey will "un-Bentley" the ABC's pending tax hike before it's too late. 

Let me explain what I mean.

If there were ever a champion of ABC's unnecessary bureaucracy, it was former Gov. Robert Bentley. He repeatedly opposed the efforts to get Alabama out of the liquor business. Whether it was overhauling the whole system or more discrete efforts like Sen. Arthur Orr's (R-Decatur) plan to eliminate the ABC's retail operations, Bentley claimed that any change would lessen the ABC's ability to enforce Alabama's liquor laws. The former governor's sentiment fell a little flat when he actually undermined the ABC's ability to enforce liquor laws by moving ABC's law enforcement capacity to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) in 2013. 

Bentley's oversight of the ABC continued to raise eyebrows when he demonstrated his lack of fiscal conservatism by giving ABC Administrator Mac Gipson an 80% pay increase that Gipson didn't even request. 

Maybe Gipson thought the pay increase included new responsibility because the ABC is now meddling in state budget policy. More specifically, the ABC is poised to impose a 5% tax hike on liquor to pay for a specific line item in Alabama's General Fund budget...

The rest can be found here:


North Carolina’s Beer Pong Battle: Beer-makers square off against a cronyist system

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle will be penning a monthly drinks column for The American Conservative, and his inaugural column discusses the recent the brouhaha (shall we call it a brewhaha?) in North Carolina over breweries self-distributing their own beer:

A legislative battle currently is brewing that could determine whether North Carolina beer-makers will still be able to sell and market their own beer. The result could have long-lasting implications for the future of craft brewing in the Tar Heel State.

North Carolina law currently allows brewers who produce less than 25,000 barrels annually to sell and distribute their own beer within the state. In practical terms, this means that, once a brewery grows large enough to exceed 25,000 barrels, it is forced to work with a distributor middleman if it wants its beer to be sold in bars, stores, or other retail outlets. This is a vestige of the protectionist post-Prohibition three-tiered system, which requires strict walls of separation between alcohol producers, distributors, and retailers.

But two Charlotte brewing companies—NoDa Brewing Co. and The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery—have decided to fight back. They started, which has signed on dozens of breweries to raise awareness of the issue and push the General Assembly to raise the cap. The group had some initial success, as state lawmakers recently considered HB 500, legislation that would have increased the self-distribution limit from 25,000 to 200,000 barrels per year.

Unfortunately, after intense lobbying by beer-distributor interests, the two most important reforms in the bill—the self-distribution cap increase and modifications to state franchise laws to make it easier for brewers and distributors to dissolve their relationships—recently were killed in committee and won’t be considered again for another two years...

Read the whole column here: