I’ve just received the latest update on the Brooks Amendment.  So here’s the scoop.

My own speculation was correct in that the amendment applies to retailers that have an “off-premises” only license, while most upscale grocery stores have “on and off-premises” licenses.  It would not apply to any grocery store that has an on/off-premises license for the purposes of conducting tastings.  Places like Whole Foods and and Piggly Wiggly are already in good shape.

The less-than-ideal aspect of this is that “normal” grocery stores probably don’t currently have on/off-premises licenses; most of them likely have off-premises only.  That’s going to include Publixes, Winn-Dixies, Food Worlds, etc.

The good news is that the on/off-premises license does not cost any more than off-premises only licenses.  There is a little bit of red tape involved in that any grocery store with an off-premises only license wanting to sell >6% beer would have to go to local authorities and change its license to on/off premises, but that change would not cost them any money.  It would purely be a matter of will to deal with a little bureaucracy.

In contrast, c-stores not interested in selling higher alcohol craft beer wouldn’t bother with the red tape.  There is also a space requirement to conduct tastings that would not be easy for a c-store to meet, but no grocery store would have any trouble with it.  I don’t have the gritty details of what the space requirements are, so questions in comments would be futile.  I’ve simply been told some c-stores might be able to qualify if they really want to sell a full line-up of craft beer.  That’s something that will have to be discussed with local authorities on an individual basis.  There is nothing that automatically prevents any/all c-stores from obtaining the necessary license.

Yes, that might pose an unfortunate obstacle for some c-stores wanting to sell higher alcohol craft beer, and we definitely wish that wasn’t the compromise needed to get our bill passed, but the reality is that it is necessary.

We already have one adamant opponent in Hank Erwin who is on the cusp of single-handedly killing our bill.  As long as he is the only zealous opponent, we still have a chance at passing.  If we don’t accept the Brooks Amendment, then Ben Brooks will become another zealous opponent, and two such opponents would be an almost certain death sentence for our bill.

Not only does the Brooks Amendment secure Ben Brooks’ support for our bill, it’s very possible it might end Hank Erwin’s crusade to filibuster our bill.  Sen. Brooks was scheduled to meet with Sen. Erwin this afternoon to discuss our bill and the effect of his amendment.  Furthermore, our lobbyist will be discussing the issue with Sen. Erwin tomorrow morning.  Because the amendment prevents higher alcohol beer from being sold in the primary class of retailers where most underage drinkers buy beer, it’s possible that it will convince Erwin to end his filibuster.  No guarantees, mind you, but it’s our best shot at this point.  Otherwise our only chance is waiting for a moment when Erwin is not in the chamber.

So the question becomes: do we want to pass a bill that requires many grocery stores to endure a little red tape to change their type of license (at no additional cost) in order to sell >6% beer, or do we want to pass no bill at all, and continue to have to drive to Georgia, Tennessee, or Florida to buy our beer?  Because that is the choice we face.

I know a few people out there are completely opposed to compromise, but when you refuse to compromise, you don’t end up getting the platonic ideal of what you want; you get nothing at all.  Free The Hops would rather have a bill that causes a few grocery stores a bureaucratic inconvenience than have no bill pass at all.

So there you go.  Depending on how the conversation goes in the morning, we might be able to get our bill passed tomorrow.  If this amendment does not convince Erwin to abandon his intent to filibuster, then things are a little more complicated but success is still within our grasp.  Just watch.