Alcohol Regulation Roundup: February 23, 2011

Alabama: After passing through the state Senate and House, Tuscaloosa voters approved a bill that legalizes Sunday sales of alcohol within the county — which was the largest “dry” county in the state. Sales will begin on March 6. As of November, 12 counties and five cities across Alabama have legalized some form of Sunday alcohol sales.

Alaska: A bill in the House would transfer Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development; a move that the liquor lobby thinks will change the ABC’s attitude toward alcohol vendors. Currently, purveyors of liquor say they are treated like criminals by heavy-handed investigators who badger and attempt to entrap them in sting operations.

Colorado: The Colorado Senate Local Government and Energy Committee approved a bill last week that would allow restaurants and bars to resume selling low-alcohol beer. After years of trying to get full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores, proponents of a unified standard of beer in Colorado simply settled for a bill that would enforce the current crazy laws on the books. One of those laws was that restaurants and bars were banned from selling the light low-alcohol beer available in grocery stores.

While the bill is far from what grocery and convenience store owners want they are hopeful that comprehensive reform, possibly an end to 3.2 beer, is on the way.

District of Columbia: With four brewers set to open in the District, some lawmakers are revisiting outdated laws. Earlier this month Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., on the behalf of DC Brau Brewing Company co-founders Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock, introduced reform legislation to change D.C. brewery tasting laws in D.C. The Brewery Manufacturer’s Tasting Permit Amendment Act of 2011, if it becomes law, would allow production breweries operating in commercial- and manufacturing-zoned spaces in the District to serve their beer on site, or at least apply for a permit to do so.

Florida: While liquor stores still can’t sell until noon on Sunday, restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will now be able to serve mimosas and Bloody Mary’s with their customers’ brunch.

Georgia: Though the Georgia state House panel approved a bill on February 9 that would have added a ballot measure in local elections to allow for Sunday sales of beer and wine, the addition of Sunday liquor sales to the bill has stalled the measure in the Senate. A senate caucus meeting was held, but no action was taken.

Until last week, SB 10 had been sailing smoothly through the legislative process. The bill had passed committee hearings, and was ready to be sent to the Rules Committee, who would set a date for a vote.

Its progress was derailed suddenly last Thursday following a caucus meeting of Senate Republicans, who decided the bill didn’t have the necessary support, essentially killing it before it could reach the floor.

The procedure was unprecedented in recent memory, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week.

The legislation could have provided much needed revenue for the state, particularly if referendums had been passed by border communities like Savannah and Augusta, where Sunday alcohol purchases drift across the Savannah River into South Carolina.”

The writers at the Augusta Metro Spirit don’t think this is the last we’ve heard of Sunday sales in Georgia. Based on the changes in alcohol regulation that have occurred in Georgia over the last few decades, they’re probably right. The question is simply, how long will it take the rest of the legislature to muster enough courage to defeat the small faction of teetotalers in the the Georgia government?

Minnesota: While Surly brewery battles it out in the Twin Cities, trying to change laws to allow them to build their three-story bar/brewery/restaurant, another beer battle has bubbled up. Jason Alvey, owner of Four Firkins Specialty Beer Store in St. Louis Park, initiated legislation that would allow liquor retailers in Minnesota to sell branded caps, t-shirts, and other clothing swag in the store. Currently there is a limited list of items that exclusive liquor stores may sell.