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Alcohol Regulation Roundup: April 10, 2013

National: Constellation Brands revealed this Monday that a preliminary deal has been reached regarding the sale of Gupo Modelo -- the maker of Corona. The $20 billion deal was stalled when the DOJ filed a suit to stop the merger of Modelo and Anheuser-Busch (ABI), citing anti-trust concerns. In the revised deal, it seems that ABI would sell its 50 percent ownership of Crown Imports to Constellation Brands -- giving Constellation full control of Crown -- the importer of Corona in the U.S. That, along with the sale of the Modelo’s Piedras Negras brewery to Constellation, appears to be enough for the DOJ to allow the merger to go through.

Alabama: The House of Representatives approved a bill earlier this month that would legalize home brewing in Alabama -- the last state that maintains a ban on the activity. Representatives voted 58-33 in favor of the bill that would allow those 21 and older to make up to 15 gallons of beer, wine, mead or cider every three months so long as they are not in a dry county or city. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Arizona: Two sisters who wanted to open a combination vineyard and brewery were thwarted by an Arizona law that banned such combinations on the same property. However, the Governor signed legislation last week reversing the ban.

Florida: Bills that would legalize the standard growler (64 ounces) in Florida are essentially dead after The Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which opposed the bill, convinced Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, not to give it a hearing at the House Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee she chairs. Currently, only 32 ounce containers or gallon-sized containers may be filled by breweries.

Massachusetts: Tom Brady might help legalize wine shipping in Massachusetts. Apparently, State Rep. Speliotis got the idea to introduce a bill legalizing direct shipping after Brady complained on a sports talk show that state laws prevented him from shipping wine from his former teammates Washington State winery.

Michigan: State Sen. Howard Walker introduced Senate Bill 216 in February, a proposed overhaul to the state’s alcohol laws. Among other things the bill would create a single license for small brewers and brewpub owners, allowing them to make up to 30,000 barrels a year, also allowing them to sell their product on-site or to stores. The bill would also create a farmers market permit that will allow winemakers to do tastings at farmer’s markets.

Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant signed the homebrew bill, which means that starting in July, Mississippians can make their own beer.

Nebraska: It looks likely that a growler legalization bill will not advance in Nebraska. Currently, only brewpubs are allowed to fill the 64-ounce reusable jugs with beer they make on-site. The bill would have allowed bars and restaurants that do not brew their own beer fill growlers as well. Perhaps the bill’s failure to perform has something to do with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh being arrested for allegedly driving drunk the week before.

Also in Nebraska District 43 Senator Al Davis introduced a bill to increase the state beer tax a “nickel a drink.” Davis claimed the tax would be small and wouldn’t affect non-beer drinkers, but as I’ve pointed out before, bars and restaurants in competitive areas may choose to account for the tax however they want, even if that means slightly raising their prices on food.

Pennsylvania: After years of fighting the Keystone State might really be on the verge of privatizing liquor sales. After seven hours debate, the House voted in favor of a bill that would gradually sell off state stores, first to beer distributors to sell off the more than 600 state-owned liquor stores. Unsurprisingly, MADD and the United Food and Commercial Workers -- or rather union leaders -- oppose the measure.

Tennessee: After Sierra Nevada brewery declined to choose North Carolina over Tennessee as the location for its new brewing facility, many blamed the state’s beer taxes; it holds the distinction of having the nation’s highest, including a 17 percent wholesale tax on beer. The Beer Tax Reform Act of 2013, has made it through several subcommittees and seems to have a lot of support as it moves toward a full House vote and Senate committees.

Texas: There’s a ton of beer-related proposals under consideration in the Lone Star State. SB 515, 518, and 639 were approved at the end of March. For the most part, consumers and brewers seem happy with the proposals.

SB 515: would, among numerous things, increase brewing limit of brewpubs from 5k to 10k barrels a year. It would allow brewpubs to sell to wholesalers so customers could buy their beer beyond the pub, and allows brewpubs who only sell on site to self-distribute between 1ka nd 2.5k barrels a year.

SB 516 & 517 create a new kind of distributor permit that allows breweries under 125k barrels a year to self-distribute 40k of those barrels each year.

SB 518 (which was unanimously approved by Senate at the end of march) lets small brewers (under 225k barrels/year) sell up to 5k barrels on-site.

For the most part, beer makers in Texas seem happy with the proposed changes, but there are some, like those in SB 639 that has been called “anti-competitive” and called a “price fixing cartel”. That bill would prevent producers from receiving financial compensation for selling territorial rights to distributors as well as preventing brewers from adjusting the price they charged a wholesaler based on the price the wholesaler was able to charge retailers.

Also, bills in the Texas House aim at expanding beer sales in the state. Bills 1763, 1764, 1765 and 1766 would increase the number of barrels brewpub can make and allow them to self-distribute. The bills also get rid of manufacturing language that discriminates against out of state brewers.

Utah: While some had hoped that the package of liquor bills making their way through the Utah legislature would bring down the so-called “Zion Curtain,” it seems the curtain will stay up for the foreseeable future. Lawmakers removed language from HB228 that would have removed the requirement that Utah dining establishments maintain a partition that separates the dining and alcohol service areas.