Alcohol Regulation Roundup: Election Hangover Edition

How did the election affect alcohol laws? Alcohol is regulated by states, cities, counties and towns, and hundreds of them had alcohol-related measures on the ballot Nov. 6. Georgia alone had more than 100 alcohol-related items on various ballots. Tennessee voters approved six of seven alcohol-related ballot measures. Blount County, Alabama, voted to stay dry, but four counties in Arkansas and two in Texas voted to go wet.

Six cities in Ohio voted to allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays, as did Lancaster, YorkGreenwood and North Augusta counties in South Carolina and Clay and Holmes counties in Florida.

Illinois: Congrats to Anheuser-Busch on winning the right to be both beer maker and distributor in Chicago. Opponents claimed it was illegal for an out-of-state brewery to own a distributing license, but a judge determined such a law was discriminatory since in-state breweries could hold a distribution license. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission agreed and allowed AB to maintain a 30 percent ownership stake in City Beverage-Illinois — the largest distributor of Budweiser in the state.

Maryland: For the first time since prohibition, businesses in Damascus in Montgomery County will be allowed to sell wine and beer. Until last Tuesday’s vote, the town of about 15,000 residents had remained dry despite five attempts to lift the ban through a referendum vote.

Michigan: Michigan’s state Liquor Control Commission decided on October 24 to not enforce a law that prohibits candidate signs in businesses that serve alcohol. The move came after the owner of Aut Bar in Ann Arbor sued the state on First Amendment grounds after he was told he had to take down his signs in favor of Rep. John Dingell.

Also in Michigan, the Liquor Control Commission told the owners of BarFly Ventures, which owns three bars in the state, its “employee appreciation day” violated the state liquor code. The owners wanted to share all profits from sales that day with employees.

New York: Most breweries in the state suffered minimal damage in Hurricane Sandy, but one brewery on Long Island was destroyed and others struggled with power outages that threaten to ruin their inventories.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania legislature wrapped up another two-year session without making any headway towards privatization liquor sales or updating the state’s archaic alcohol laws. This, despite the recent poll conducted by the Philadelphia Inquirer that found residents supported privatization by 2-1 and that 61 percent wanted grocery stores to be allowed to sell beer and wine.

Texas: The town of Buda hopes to bring in an extra $100,000 in tax revenue after voters approved, 1,990-552, a measure to allow liquor stores to open and to offer cheaper “beer and wine” licenses to restaurants. Previously, beer and wine were sold only at grocery stores, and restaurants could purchase only expensive “mixed beverage” licenses. Restaurants that  used to pay $2,000-$6,000 for two-year liquor licenses soon will pay just $900 for two-year beer and wine licenses. The measure also allows music venues to serve liquor and microbreweries to locate within limits.

If I’ve missed any significant changes as a result of the election, please feel free to add a note in the comment area.