You asked for it.
The current Alabama Brewpub Act allows a brewery to have on-premise sales with the following conditions:
- The brewery has to be in a historic building
- The brewery has to have a restaurant with seating for 80
- The brewery has to be in a county that had a brewery prior to 1918
- If a brewery has on-premise sales, they can no longer sell to wholesalers
The Brewery Modernization Act seeks to change that. In the form that passed the Senate this year and is sitting in House committee, a brewery would be able to have on-premise sales without having to meet those restrictions. They just have to get a brewpub license. They can also continue selling to wholesalers.
Since this whole drama started, we’ve been offered several proposals for a compromise.
The first compromise was to revoke the Alabama Brewpub Act altogether and instead allow a brewery to obtain a Restaurant Retail Liquor License. A Restaurant Retail Liquor license requires a restaurant, so we said no.
Then it was changed to allow them to obtain one of a variety of licenses that would allow them to be a brewpub or a tap room. The tap rooms would be allowed to sell beer for off-premise. We thought this was great! Then they changed it to on-premise only. We still thought that was pretty good. Then they changed their mind again and gave us something this week, which I termed “the abomination” earlier today.
Their proposal earlier this week would have allowed for a “tap room” to have a 2 1/2 hour “tasting” in 2 oz. samples. It kept many of the restrictions on brewpubs in place. I got whiplash. I still don’t understand how we went from the perfectly acceptable compromise in the last paragraph to that.
We found this language, and the waste of time, completely unacceptable and started prepping for a boycott. We had been floating the idea around for a couple weeks. We also informed their craft beer suppliers that we were considering it at least a week ago. Many of the breweries – Back Forty in particular – have been helpful in trying to get their wholesalers on board.
Yesterday, hours before the boycott was to be started, we got another proposal. It still keeps most of the brewpub restrictions in place, but allows tap rooms to have “unrestricted tastings.” That seems a little vague. We were also informed that the historic language in the Brewpub Act was something they were not willing to compromise on.
From what I’m gathering by talking to folks, the wholesalers are telling their suppliers that their only concern is protecting their franchise laws from lawsuits. If you’re familiar with the three-tier system – that’s what they are telling everyone this is all about. WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE THREE-TIER SYSTEM. We’re not trying to fight it, we not trying to save it. If that’s what they are really worried about, then we are more than happy to include some language protecting it.
Instead, we’ve spent weeks talking about historic buildings and restaurant requirements. From my perspective, that’s what they have been worried about. That’s what’s been talked about. This latest talk about the three-tier system is news to me.