Legislative Roundup: Georgia, Mississippi Brewers are One Step Closer to Direct Sales

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Georgia State Senate Passes Direct Sales Bill

A bill to allow craft breweries to sell beer directly to consumers leaped a major hurdle on Thursday. The Georgia state Senate voted to allow on-premise sales at craft breweries and brewpubs, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In previous years, The Senate had failed to pass similar legislation, but a compromise between brewers and wholesalers has given new life to the direct sales initiative.

The latest version of the bill, Senate Bill 85, would allow consumers to buy a case of beer to take home from craft breweries as well as drink beer on-site. Brewpubs would also be permitted to sell to-go beer.

The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives. If it passes into law, it would go into effect on September 1, the outlet reported.

Mississippi House Passes Direct Sales Bill

A similar direct sales bill is currently winding its way through the Mississippi state Senate after the House of Representatives passed the legislation by a 93-23 vote Wednesday, according to TV station WLOX.

On-site sales are currently banned in Mississippi, but House Bill 1322 would permit breweries selling less than 60,000 barrels of beer annually to sell up to two cases of beer, per day, to consumers between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight.

“Building up the craft beer culture is critical to Mississippi,” Lazy Magnolia CEO Mark Henderson told the TV station. “It hits tourism, it hits all the things we love about the south. It touches on the romance and the creative economy. It touches all of those things. … And anything we can do to build up local manufacturing, is good for the state of Mississippi.”

Florida Bill Would Allow Small Craft Breweries to Self-Distribute Kegs

Proposed legislation in Florida would give small craft breweries the ability to self-distribute their beer, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The bill, filed by state Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa), would allow craft breweries that produce under 7,000 kegs and without distribution deals to deliver beer to Florida craft breweries, restaurants and bars.

Young told the Tampa Bay Times that 50 of the state’s 80 breweries would qualify.

“It allows the brewer to use sweat equity to build up a following, so the distributor is interested in carrying the product,” she told the newspaper. “When they’re this small, they aren’t on the distributor’s radar.”

Florida beer distributors are expected to oppose the initiative.

Read the full text of the bill here.

Nebraska Senator Files Bill to Limit Craft Brewery Expansion

Nebraska state Senator has introduced a bill that would stop craft brewers from opening taprooms and retail operations off-site from where their beer is brewed, according to KMTV Channel 3.

Now, the state’s craft brewers are saying Senate Bill LB-632 would put the brakes on expansion plans throughout the state, kill jobs and leave tax dollars on the table.

“Our craft brewer’s guild is mobilized to fight this effort,” Nebraska Brewing Company general manager Kim Kavulak told the TV station. “We have meetings set up next week with members of the general affairs committee. We plan on testifying at the hearing with is scheduled for February 13th.”

The omnibus bill would undo parts of the Nebraska Liquor Control Act that allowed breweries to operate up to five separate craft breweries or brewpubs, according to the Grand Island Independent. The bill also includes a come to rest provision that would force wholesalers to deliver beer back to their distributorships before delivering it to retailers — a problem for suppliers who use distributors several cities away.

The bill endangers the expansion plans that brewers across Nebraska have announced or begun work on, including Kinkaider Brewery, the newspaper reported.

“Our Grand Island location that we are looking to open up would not be possible even currently because the bill is written with a back date of Jan. 1,” Kinkaider co-owner Nate Bell told the outlet. “It would force us to take extreme measures to get that to go through. It would basically halt the retail growth of craft breweries.”

Representatives from the office of Sen. Tyson Larson, who introduced the bill, also told the KMTV that the bill follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing businesses in certain states from receiving special privileges that other states do not get.

From the TV station report: “If the bill passes, it could level the playing field for companies, such as Anheuser-Busch or Miller-Coors that generally don’t open bars and restaurants.”

The bill would grandfather in breweries that opened bars and restaurants prior to 2017. However, those companies wouldn’t be allowed to expand.

Bill Would Exempt Virginia Brewers From Taxes on State’s Hops, Barley, Malt, Wheat

A proposed bill would exempt Virginia brewers from paying taxes on purchases of hops, barley, wheat and malt from the state’s farmers, according to the Roanoke Times.

Senate Bill 798, introduced by Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and has advanced to the Senate floor.

“What all of us have seen is an explosion of this industry of the likes that we did not anticipate,” Stanley told the outlet. “And if we’re going to have this industry to continue to grow we need to have other things that will support it and agriculture is the natural progression in that direction.”

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