Deep Ellum Sues Texas Over “Archaic” Law

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Deep Ellum Brewing is picking a fight with the state of Texas and it’s asking the public for help.

On Monday, the Dallas-based brewery filed a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), challenging the constitutionality of a state law that prohibits licensed breweries from selling beer to go from the point of production. Currently, wineries, distilleries, and even brewpub restaurants can legally sell their wares for off-premise consumption.

Coinciding with the suit, the brewery launched a crowdfunding campaign, dubbed “Operation Six-Pack To Go,” in the hopes of raising $100,000 to help offset legal fees and raise public awareness of the issue. Since launching the IndieGoGo campaign on Wednesday, it has raised more than $21,000.

John Reardon, founder of Deep Ellum, said if they can successfully mobilize the public, it would highlight the issue as one of importance, not only to Texas breweries, but also the state’s citizenry.

“There are so many consumers in Texas that really have no idea their favorite craft breweries can’t sell their beer to go and how archaic our laws are,” said Reardon. “It’s about equal rights. It’s about leveling the playing field. It’s not, ‘we’ve got enough, we’re going to back down now.’ We want the game to continue to become more fair.”

Similar attempts to change the laws surrounding direct to consumer sales have been made in other states, notably in Georgia, where the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild launched a crowdfunding campaign of its own to help the cause in November of last year. There, the state’s craft brewers were, among other things, fighting for the right to sell beer from the point of production for both on- and off-premise consumption.

One of the Deep Ellum campaign’s higher-end rewards names the donor as a co-plaintiff and co-chairman on the suit. That level is reserved for two breweries, with Grapevine Craft Brewery claiming the first open slot.

“We believe in liberty and in the free market here in Grapevine, Texas,” the company said in a statement. “But there are laws on the books, which are not only antiquated, but we feel are unconstitutionally discriminatory towards a segment of the alcoholic beverage industry, particularly breweries.”

Reached by Brewbound, the TABC said it was unable to comment on the matter as it pertains to pending litigation. But such a change to the status quo wouldn’t be met without opposition from other industry stakeholders, namely, wholesalers.

Rick Donley, president of the Beer Alliance of Texas, a trade group representing the state’s beer wholesalers, said his constituency has already “bent over backwards” trying to help the craft beer industry, pointing to recent passed legislation allowing brewers to self-distribute up to 40,000 barrels a year.

“They’re growing at over 20 percent per annum. My clients would love to have those growth statistics,” said Donley. “It’s just like, you can’t ever make them happy. They continue to want more and more and more.”

Reardon contends that type of attitude is corrosive to the state’s growing craft beer industry, adding, “They just think because we’ve been successful or are seeing quick growth that we shouldn’t want anymore.”

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