Alcohol Regulation Roundup: December 7, 2011

Arizona: Liberalization of beer laws in Arizona has kick-started the state’s craft brewing market. The state allows small producers to skip the wholesaling tier of distribution, allowing them to sell directly to consumers. Unfortunately, the law defined small brewers as producing less than 620,000 gallons per year, which forced many brewers to cut production. In 2009 the state increased the cap to 1,240,000 gallons per year and the number of breweries in the state has grown every year since. Hopefully the legislature will take a hint and let breweries of all sizes skip the wholesaler tier if they want to.

Michigan: Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm apparently did at least one right thing (even a broken clock is right twice a day) when she signed legislation into law that did away with the Sunday ban on alcohol sales until after noon. For the last year 6,000 businesses throughout the state forked out the $160 for the annual license that allows them to start selling alcohol at 7am on Sundays. According to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, the change has resulted in a $950,000 increase in revenue for the state.

Also in Michigan: As I predicted in my article, the new state keg-tagging laws have already resulted in a significant drop in keg sales and paper-work headaches for businesses.

Minnesota: This November the Minneapolis City Council passed amendments, removing the required 300 feet of distance between alcohol-serving -selling businesses and houses of worship. As I wrote about in November, this regulatory liberation is the direct result of small brewers pushing for updates to Minnesota laws that allow them to operate, profit, and stimulate the state economy.

Massachusetts: As I wrote about before, the Massachusetts legislature bowed to the liquor license cartel and rather than offering more licenses for new businesses, and instead introduced a measure that would allow those businesses that already had licenses to sell beer and wine at more locations. Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law. While this will certainly result in more availability of wine and beer, I doubt it will increase variety of items or reduce costs for consumers.

North Carolina: Likely in an attempt to attract big breweries to the state, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to allow larger beer-makers to sell their product onsite, as small breweries already can. H 796 simply needs the governor’s signature and big breweries would be able to sell beer made, not only at on-location facilities, but to sell any of their beer on the brewery premise even if it was brewed at one of their out-of-state facilities.

Washington: Though the ballot initiative was called the “Costco Initiative,” the vote that got the Washington State government out of the business of selling liquor has opened the door to many other businesses to get into the business of booze. Grocery stores such as Safeway, Albertsons, and Rosauers are lining up to sell hard liquor.