Legislative Update: Maryland Brewers Oppose Special Treatment for Guinness; Minnesota Moves to End Sunday Sales Ban

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Maryland Brewers Push Back on Special Treatment for Guinness

Maryland craft brewers are butting heads with Guinness owner Diageo after a bill was introduced in the state legislature allowing the company’s proposed Relay taproom to serve more beer annually than every other brewery taproom, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

Under House Bill 1391, Guinness would be allowed to serve up to 5,000 barrels of beer annually in its taproom. The current cap is at 500 barrels. Meanwhile,, House Bill 1420 would cap the amount of barrels sold at 4,000 annually for all of the state’s breweries.

“Guinness is big beer, but there is something less evil about them, so we were all excited,” Union Craft Brewing Co. co-founder Jon Zerivitz told the outlet. “Then we were deflated when we found out that there was this bill. We really thought they could be a huge benefit to our efforts and support us, too.”

In late January, Guinness parent Diageo announced plans to build a U.S. version of Dublin’s famous Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore County, Maryland. The $50 million project will include the construction of a mid-sized Guinness brewery, packaging and warehousing operations as well as a tasting room, retail store and visitor center at Diageo’s existing Relay, Maryland, site.

Meanwhile, Maryland lawmakers also considering House Bill 1283, which would force taprooms to close by 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and by 7 p.m. on Sundays, the outlet report. However, the Guinness-favored legislation would allow the company to stay open until 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, the Business Journal reported.

Minnesota Senate Votes to End Sunday Liquor Sales Ban

The Minnesota Senate voted Monday to end a 159-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales, according to the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

“We’ve been hearing loud and clear from our constituents that it’s time to get this done,” author of the measure and Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) told the newspaper. “Today we have an opportunity to show Minnesota we’re with the people.”

The measure has reportedly cleared its biggest hurdle although a conference committee must be convene to work out differences between the Senate bill and a similar one in the House. However, Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign the bill into law. When that happens, liquor stores will be able to open on Sundays beginning in July.

Minnesota is one of 12 states outlawing Sunday hours for liquor stores.

Virginia Concession Stands OK to Sell Canned Beer in July

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill last week making it legal to sell canned beer at the state’s concession stands with liquor licenses, according to the Henrico Citizen.

Senate Bill 1469 reportedly adds “single original metal cans” to the list of containers that can be used to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks at concession stands at amphitheaters, stadiums, coliseums, convention centers, race tracks, etc. Currently, it’s only legal to use plastic or paper cups.

There are several other measures that could change Virginia’s alcoholic beverage laws, the outlet reported. Among them: a bill to treat cider as wine for legal reasons; a measure that would require the ABC Board to offer training to bartenders on how to spot and intervene in “situations that may lead to sexual assault”; and a bill to incorporate a limited mixed beverage license for cigar shops.

Mississippi Gets Closer to Direct Sales

Mississippi’s crawl toward permitting direct sales at breweries continues. On Tuesday, the state Senate Finance Committee voted 21-1 to send House Bill 1322 to the full chamber, according to Watchdog.org.

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.

“It’s the furthest we’ve been,” Lucas Simmons, the brewmaster of Jackson’s Lucky Town Brewery, told Watchdog. “We’re in line with the distributors, we’re in line with some of the bigger breweries from outside the state. I think everybody’s happy with the bill. This is a huge step for the industry. I think it’ll be a huge boost for us, the other brewers and the state as a whole.”

In the latest version of the bill, language allowing out-of-state breweries to buy microbreweries and sell beer on-site has been removed by the Senate Finance Committee, Watchdog reported.

Mississippi and Georgia are the last states to bar on-site sales of beer at microbreweries. The Georgia bill passed out of a House committee on Valentine’s Day.

Tennessee Lawmakers Move to Simplify Beer Permitting

A bill moving through the Tennessee Legislature would require Nashville’s Metro Beer Permit Board to issue permits to businesses that have been licensed by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, according to the Nashville Post.

“We think the real question is ‘Why is it so onerous to get a beer permit?’ That’s something that the local government would have to answer,” David Bone, a staffer in the office of state Rep. Bill Beck, who is co-sponsoring the bill, told the outlet. “We’re not exactly sure how the state can trust you to serve shots of Jäger but the city doesn’t necessarily trust you to serve Miller Lite.”

The House bill was assigned to the Local Government Subcommittee on February 17.

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