Craft breweries in Texas are once again pushing for the legalization of beer-to-go sales.
A pair of companion bills that would make Texas the final U.S. state to permit to-go sales from licensed breweries were filed in both chambers yesterday, the first day of Texas’ 2019 legislative session.
Introduced by Texas state Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), the bills – Senate Bill 312 and House Bill 672 – would enable manufacturing breweries to sell beer for off-premise consumption.
Currently, Texas beer producers that hold manufacturing licenses are only allowed to sell up to 5,000 barrels of beer for on-premise consumption, while the state’s brewpubs, as well as wineries and distilleries with similar manufacturing permits, are allowed to sell their products for off-premise consumption.
In a press release issued by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, which is advocating for the passage of the bill, Rodriguez said his bill “corrects a glaring disparity in the state’s alcohol laws.”
“The fact is, 49 other states already allow consumers to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery,” Rodriguez said via the release. “Texas should be a leader when it comes to supporting small businesses, not the last horse to cross the finish line.”
According to the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the proposed changes would not impact how much beer licensed manufacturing breweries are allowed to sell directly to customers, it would just give those companies the opportunity to sell the beer to-go.
The fight over to-go sales began in 2015 when Dallas-based Deep Ellum Brewing filed a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) arguing that manufacturing breweries were at a competitive disadvantage.
Two years later, Texas brewers again fought to legalize to-go sales but ran into a powerful beer distributor lobby that was successful in pushing through changes that limited what craft breweries were able to do inside of their own tasting rooms. That year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that forced larger craft breweries – those making more than 225,000 barrels annually – to repurchase beer previously sold to wholesalers in order to continue selling beer for on-premise consumption at their taprooms.
Following that blow, in early 2018, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild launched a political action committee (PAC), Called CraftPAC, aimed at overturning the state’s “archaic, anti-competitive beer laws.”
At the time it was launched, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild said CraftPAC would focus on legalizing to-go sales from production brewery taprooms.
Six months after launching the PAC, Texas Democrats and Republicans came together and included language in their respective party platforms supporting the legalization of off-premise sales privileges for manufacturing breweries.
“The fact that both parties expressed unequivocal support for beer-to-go in their 2018 platforms demonstrates the bipartisan, grassroots momentum surrounding this issue,” Texas Craft Brewers Guild executive director Charles Vallhonrat said via the release.
At a Brew Talks meetup held in Austin last August, Austin Beerworks co-founder Adam DeBower, who also serves as the vice-chair of the guild, explained why brewers are fighting for changes to the to-go sales laws.
“The market itself is dynamic, but the system that governs the market is not dynamic, it is static” he said, at the time.
“It is 2018, and we are still operating in a system that was conceived of a very long time ago,” he added. “The updates have not come fast enough.’
The Texas Legislature, which convenes for 140 days, operates under a biennial system. If the Texas breweries are unsuccessful in their attempts to lobby for brewery to-go sales, they won’t be able to revisit the issue until 2021.
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild, via the CraftPAC, is asking for public support and it has launched a petition urging Texas lawmakers to pass S.B. 312 and H.B. 672 during the 2019 session.
A press release with additional details is included below.
AUSTIN, Texas (January 8, 2019) — Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) have filed SB 312 and HB 672, for consideration in the 86th Legislative Session. These important companion bills propose to legalize beer-to-go sales from Texas craft breweries, an issue which the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, along with its political action committee arm, CraftPAC, have strongly advocated for as a means of supporting small businesses, increasing consumer choice, and creating more quality manufacturing jobs for Texans.
As the only state left in America that doesn’t allow beer-to-go sales, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild applauds Senator Buckingham and Representative Rodriguez’s commitment to bringing Texas on par with the rest of the nation and setting craft brewers on a more equal playing field with other Texas alcoholic beverage producers.
“HB 672 corrects a glaring disparity in the state’s alcohol laws and gives Texans the freedom to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery…just like they can when they visit a Texas winery, distillery, or brewpub,” said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin). “The fact is, 49 other states already allow consumers to purchase beer-to-go when they visit a local brewery…Texas should be a leader when it comes to supporting small businesses, not the last horse to cross the finish line.”
Current law states that Texas manufacturing brewers who produce less than 225,000 barrels of beer annually can sell up to 5,000 barrels annually of beer produced on the premises to tasting room visitors for on-premises consumption. SB 312 and HB 672 propose a simple addition to the current law to allow for on-premises “or for off-premises consumption” of these products. This change would not impact the overall quantity of beer brewers can sell from their tasting rooms annually, but would give patrons more freedom to enjoy that beer either in the tasting room setting or back at their homes.
“As a promoter of a fiscally responsibly limited government, I believe Texas craft brewers should have the right to sell beer and ale to consumers for off-premise consumption — a privilege the state already provides to wineries, distilleries and brewpubs in Texas,” said Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway). “Senate District 24 is home to many craft breweries, and with Texas being the only state in the country that does not permit off-premise sales at production breweries, I have filed SB 312 to encourage further economic development in my Senate District and to eliminate this unnecessary government overreach.” In 2018, at the Texas Republican Party Convention in San Antonio and the Texas Democratic Party Convention in Fort Worth, both political parties included for the first time, rare, bipartisan support for beer-to-go sales in their respective party platforms.
“The fact that both parties expressed unequivocal support for beer-to-go in their 2018 platforms demonstrates the bipartisan, grassroots momentum surrounding this issue,” Texas Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Charles Vallhonrat said. “This is something Texans care about and the more they continue to make their voices heard, the harder it gets for big beer distributors to ask lawmakers to defy the will of their constituents and vote against something that both major political parties, the brewing industry, and consumers support.”
So far, over 7,000 people have signed an online petition to urge the Texas Legislature to legalize beer-to- go sales. Texans who want to get involved in the fight to #FixTexasBeerLaws can visit craftpac.org/ action.
The Texas craft brewing industry has a $4.54 billion dollar economic impact on the Texas economy, the equivalent of 53,000 full time jobs.
CraftPAC is a Texas-based general purpose Political Action Committee (PAC) founded by members of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild. It is a Board of Directors led organization formed to protect the rights of Texas craft breweries and champion common sense, 21st century legislative reforms. To learn more about CraftPAC visit www.craftpac.org.
ABOUT THE TEXAS CRAFT BREWERS GUILD:
The Texas Craft Brewers Guild exists for the purpose of promoting Texas craft beer, educating the public about the qualities and attributes of craft beer and advancing the common interest of Texas craft brewers. The Guild’s Board of Directors hail from craft breweries in all the major metropolitan regions of the state, as well as different brewery types and sizes to represent the Guild’s over 250 brewery members throughout the state, including operating breweries, as well as those that are in the advanced planning stages. The Guild also welcomes allied trade and retail members who support the craft brewing industry. To learn more about the Texas Craft Brewers Guild visit texascraftbrewersguild.org.