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R Street: It's Time for Texas to Permit Sunday Liquor Sales

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We recently discussed West Virginia’s passage of legislation legalizing Sunday liquor sales, and now Texas is considering doing the same thing. R Street’s Josiah Neeley, a resident of the Lone Star state, wrote for the American Spectator about why Texas lawmakers should embrace this reform:

Texas laws governing alcohol have their own quirks. Take Sunday sales, for example. Texas is one of a handful of states that maintains a ban on certain types of alcohol sales on Sundays. Whatever the original motivation of the Sunday sales ban, the current version is so shot through with exemptions as to make it arbitrary and senseless. Sales of hard liquor on Sunday are prohibited, but only if they are for off-site consumption. Bars can still serve hooch, and stores can still sell wine and beer. It goes without saying that you can still buy as much liquor as you want on Monday through Saturday and then drink it on Sunday…

Folks who favor economic liberty want these anachronistic rules wiped away. Meanwhile, voters worried about Texas’ public coffers can also take heart—permitting drinks sales each day of the week may generate more sales tax revenue. And consumers certainly would like these needless hassles eliminated.

While modest, bills like these are a sign that Texas’ attitudes towards liquor aren’t encased in amber. Times change, and the laws governing drinks should reflect that…

Read the whole piece here.

R Street: A Little Less Tariff, a Lot More Booze

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Politicians from across the ideological spectrum are constantly waxing poetic about the importance of blue-collar manufacturing jobs. In fact, much of the justification for the recent tariff disputes has been a need to protect American manufacturing industries. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Clark Packard argue in National Review that the best path to more manufacturing jobs is to scrap the tariff wars and start deregulating the alcohol industry:

From the earliest moments of his campaign, President Donald Trump has emphasized the importance of domestic manufacturing jobs. He’s negotiated carve-outs to keep factories in America, railed against companies that move jobs overseas, and increased tariffs in an attempt to protect blue-collar workers. Nearly all of the president’s rhetoric, however, has fixated on a handful of sectors traditionally associated with manufacturing, such as the steel industry, automobiles, and construction. This myopic focus has blinded the president to one of the most promising sources of manufacturing jobs in modern America: the alcohol industry.

President Trump is far from the only government official who obsesses over manufacturing jobs, with stories cropping up daily about politicians visiting production plants in Rust Belt states and donning hard hats for well-publicized photo ops…

Lost in all this is the fact that the American drinks industry has some of the best job-growth potential in the country. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, breweries, wineries, and distilleries created the second-most manufacturing jobs of any industry in 2017. These numbers don’t even include support industries that are tied to drinks, such as barrel manufacturers or bottle producers. With new breweries and distilleries opening every day, the growth seems primed to continue — if policymakers will let it…

Read the whole piece here.

R Street Testifies in Support of Montana Micro Distillery Bills

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The R Street Institute’s Western Region Director Steven Greenhut recently submitted testimony before the Montana legislature in support of two bills that would liberalize rules for micro distilleries in the state. One bill (SB 182) would raise the production cap for micro distilleries, while the other (HB 362) would increase the amount of distilled spirits that can be sold for off-premise consumption. As Greenhut articulated:

Montana has a boisterous and growing micro-distillery industry. This is a wonderful development for a variety of reasons. Similar to microbreweries, these businesses tap into growing regional interest in artisanal and craft beverages. These small distilleries epitomize the spirit of entrepreneurship. They create well-paying and interesting jobs. They promote tourism, as visitors love to go to tasting rooms and compare the creative libations distilled in different cities and regions. They also provide new revenue for state and local governments.

To read R Street’s full testimony for SB 182 see here, and for HB 362 here.

Distilling on Tribal Lands Is Now Legal in the U.S.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Chehalis chairman Harry S. Pickernell Sr. at committee hearing for HR 5317. Image courtesy of SevenFifty Daily and Rep. Beutler’s office.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Chehalis chairman Harry S. Pickernell Sr. at committee hearing for HR 5317. Image courtesy of SevenFifty Daily and Rep. Beutler’s office.

Last summer, R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Kevin Kosar took to the pages of the New York Times to call for the repeal of an 1834 law that prohibited distilling on tribal lands. At the time, this was the first coverage of this antiquated law in any mainstream outlet, but R Street continued to highlight the law, including in its America’s Dumbest Drunks Laws report (choosing it as the #1 worst law). Now, several months later, a bill repealing the ban has made it through Congress and been signed by the President. Dieterle discusses this repeal effort in an article for the popular drinks site SevenFifty Daily:

To anyone who’s been paying attention, the success of the modern craft alcohol movement is no secret. From the latest chic brewery opening down the street to the new distillery producing that small-batch liqueur you just can’t live without, the fruits of entrepreneurial adventures in alcohol are everywhere. But until just a few days ago, one group in the United States was conspicuously left out of the current craft alcohol renaissance: Native Americans.

Under an 1834 federal law enacted during the Andrew Jackson administration, it was illegal for anyone to set up a distillery on tribal land for the purpose of manufacturing “ardent spirits.” Penalties for violating the law included fines and asset forfeiture. This law remained on the books for almost two centuries until Congress and the president, in a rare bipartisan moment, finally repealed it in early December 2018.

The reasons it took so long to relegate this antiquated law to the dustbin of history are far from glamorous but contain the seeds of a quintessentially American story: A law born from an outdated and offensive view toward Native Americans finally gave way to entrepreneurial desire and irrepressible market forces…

Read the rest here.

Why Georgia Cities Should Embrace Open Container Laws

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R Street has voiced support for modest expansions of open container laws (or, alternatively, open container zones) in cities as a way to spark urban renewal and allow citizens to have responsible fun outdoors. R Street’s Marc Hyden writes for Insider Advantage about why more cities in Georgia should embrace such an approach:

Anything worth doing is worth taking your time to do, according to an old proverb. While there’s a kernel of truth to this platitude, the state of Georgia apparently took this advice to the extreme. Consider this: The United States ratified the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition in 1933. Georgia, on the other hand, still hasn’t ratified it. But that may change soon, because Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, recently pre-filed HR 4 to formally approve the 21st Amendment.

Thankfully, this isn’t the only long-overdue alcohol regulation that is finally getting attention in Georgia. Indeed, the Peach State has been gradually liberalizing its puritanical alcohol statutes. Lawmakers have relaxed regulations on Sunday alcohol sales and on breweries and distilleries, and have enacted ordinances permitting open container districts in AlpharettaAcworthCantonDuluthSmyrnaStockbridgeSavannah, etc. These efforts coincide with the ongoing national movement to allow open-air drinking in entertainment districts across the country. Now, it appears that Kennesaw might be the next city to modernize its alcohol laws by creating an open container district. There are many reasons why it should consider such a move…

Read the rest here.

UPDATE: Kennesaw, Georgia’s city council heeded Marc Hyden’s call and has officially approved two open container districts within city limits.


R Street's Jarrett Dieterle Explains Tennessee Wine v. Blair SCOTUS case

Oral arguments were held yesterday in the important Supreme Court case challenging Tennessee’s durational residency requirement for liquor licenses (for more on how the oral arguments went see here). The case involves the intersection of the U.S. Constitution’s 21st Amendment and the Dormant Commerce Clause, and R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle filmed the following short explainer video about the case for the Federalist Society:


It's Time to Repeal Utah's 'Weak Beer' Law

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Utah is one of just two states in the country that permits grocery stores to only sell beer with 3.2-percent alcohol content or less. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle took to the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune to call on Utah lawmakers to repeal this outdated restriction:

As Utah lawmakers begin the 2019 legislative session, they may be forced to finally confront one of the state’s most notorious legal relics. Utah remains one of only two states in America to forbid grocery convenience stores from selling beer containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol. Any beer with a higher alcohol content — which, in this era of craft brewing, is most modern beers — can only be sold at state-run liquor stores. Utah legislators would be wise to recognize this law for what it is: A woefully outdated rule that handicaps market forces and limits consumer freedom.

So-called “weak beer” laws trace their heritage back 85 years to the end of Prohibition. In an underappreciated historical moment, President Franklin Roosevelt and Congress passed a law called the Cullen-Harrison Act March 22, 1933, nearly nine months before Prohibition was officially repealed. The act allowed states to pass legislation that would permit the production of 3.2-percent beer — a big step forward at a time when alcohol production was prohibited across the country. The Cullen-Harrison Act was eventually superseded when Prohibition was repealed in toto, but many of the state-level 3.2-percent beer laws it permitted stayed on the books.

Over the last several decades, more and more states have taken steps to repeal these laws, but Utah has remained a stubborn outlier…

Read the rest here

NEW: America's Dumbest Drinks Laws

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In honor of Repeal Day, we released a new drinks report! Earlier this year, our DrinksReform team put out a call for readers to send us examples of the craziest, whackiest, most nonsensical alcohol laws they could find. We scoured the Internet, interviewed industry players, and combed through state legal codes to find the “worst of” when it came to booze laws across the country. Today, we debut the culmination of that effort, a new report titled “America’s Dumbest Drinks Laws.”

That’s right, we picked the 12 dumbest drinks laws in America and ranked them. We’ll let you read the report for the full rankings, but we wanted to pass along one happy note: The “winner” of the #1 worst alcohol law—a 1834 federal law that banned Native Americans from distilling on tribal grounds—was recently relegated to the dustbin of history. A bill repealing this outdated and offensive law passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and is headed to the President’s desk.

R Street’s Kevin Kosar and Jarrett Dieterle wrote the first article in any mainstream outlet about the Native American distilling ban when they penned an op-ed earlier this year in the New York Times calling for the law’s repeal. We like think to think that we get results at the R Street Institute, and we’re proud that the law we targeted as the #1 worst alcohol law in the country has officially been eliminated.

Now, onward to #2 and #3! (Looking at you, North Carolina and Indiana …)

Check out the full report here—and prepare to be outraged! For a more condensed summary of the report, Dieterle wrote a Repeal Day piece for the Washington Examiner about it.

Additional media coverage for the report:

Trump Hotel keeps its liquor license — and that’s as it should be

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As covered last week, a recent attempt to yank the liquor license from the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. has failed (for now). Although Trump’s opponents will surely be disappointed, R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Jonathan Haggerty wrote a piece for the Washington Post discussing why using “good moral character” laws to strip liquor licenses is a bad idea:

What do the president of the United States and an ex-convict from Michigan have in common? They’ve both been involved in legal disputes with the government over their fitness to hold a license.

President Trump — or rather, his hotel, the Trump International Hotel in Washington — holds a license that allows it to legally sell liquor. The Michigan man, Mike Grennan, sought to obtain a license to become a homebuilding contractor. Both situations demonstrate the potentially pernicious effects of so-called “good moral character” clauses in state and local licensing laws.

In June, a group of religious leaders and former judges filed a complaint with D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board arguing that Trump — and thus, the Trump Hotel — was unfit to hold a liquor license. Their claim is based on the “good moral character” provision in the District’s licensing law, which requires owners of drinking establishments to be of sound moral character to serve alcoholic beverages…

While Trump’s detractors may be disappointed by the decision, there is good reason to celebrate it. Good-moral-character clauses are notoriously vague, which makes them ripe for abuse by local government officials. The D.C. law does not define “good character,” according to Alcoholic Beverage Control Board spokesman Max Bluestein, and some states, including Michigan, do so using ambiguous terms, such as, “[T]he propensity on the part of the person to serve the public in the licensed area in a fair, honest, and open manner.”

Such open-ended language allows officials to use good-moral-character clauses in improper ways, such as targeting political enemies or, even worse, blocking well-meaning citizens from obtaining employment. This is because licensing boards around the country can, and often do, interpret good-moral-character clauses to mean that anyone with a prior criminal conviction is automatically disqualified from holding a license — regardless of the prior offense’s relation to the nature of the job the applicant is seeking…

Read the whole article here.