Alcohol Regulation Roundup: February 24, 2011

Kansas: The Kansas Federal and State Affairs Committee approved legislation that would phase in the sale of full-strength beer, wine and liquor in grocery and convenience stores by 2017.

Maryland: On January 28, Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Jolene Ivey submitted legislation (HB 234 and SB 248) that would change Maryland law to legalize direct wine shipping rather than forcing residents to commit a misdemeanor crime.

Oregon: The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday allowing home-brewers to share their products outside of the home and enter into amateur competitions without obtaining a liquor license.

Pennsylvania: A proposed bill that unanimously passed through a state House of Representatives committee last week would address two of Pennsylvania’s many silly alcohol laws. HB 148 from Republican Rep. John Payne would maintain the 14-hour happy hour cap but allow bar owners to choose how they divide the hours. The bill would also allow restaurant patrons to buy three unopened bottles of wine to take home. Currently, customers can buy two, but would have to leave and re-enter the establishment if they wanted to buy a third.

Texas: Breweries in the Lone Star State might be ready for a change. Two bills filed this year, HB 660 and HB 602, would amend some of the laws that hinder beer production.

Unlike other states, brewpubs in Texas cannot self-distribute their beer to stores, restaurants, or bars, nor are they allowed to sell their beer to distribution companies that could distribute their product throughout the state. Texas brewpubs may only sell their beer on-location limited to 5,000 barrels a year. Two bills, HB 660 and HB 602, would loosen some restrictions. HB 660 would apply the 5,000-barrel cap only to beer consumed on-location and would allow brewpubs to sell their beer to distribution companies for resale at retail locations, up to 75,000 barrels. It would also allow brewpubs to self-distribute up to 10,000 barrels a year.

Utah: Republican Senator John Valentine introduced a bill last week that would reduce the hours when alcohol can be sold and how much revenue can come from alcohol. Currently, liquor and wine can’t be sold until noon, with beer sales beginning at 10am. Valentine’s bill would also require restaurants to draw at least 70 percent of their revenue from food instead of the current 50 percent.

Valentine’s bill would also ban mini-kegs and add 40 liquor licenses for restaurants.

Virginia: On January 7, the attorney general’s office signed a consent decree with the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell and the ABC board, which now allows public advertising of alcoholic beverages on billboards and store windows. The decree came as a result of lawsuit filed by an outdoor billboard company. Prior to the decree, alcohol ads were not allowed if they could be seen from the street.

However, some lawmakers in the state have made a counter proposal, what they call a “compromise” which would return Virginia to the billboard ban except for “commercial and industrial areas established by local governments.” While wholesalers are in favor of this compromise, it remains to be seen if the proposal will mollify the billboard advertiser that originally sued Virginia.

In other Virginia news (Hat tip Ryan Young): The state Senate last week gave unanimous approval to a bill permitting production of hard cider up to 10 percent ABV. Prior to the bill’s passage Virginia law capped cider ABV at 7 percent, despite the fact that apples naturally ferment between 4 and 10 percent ABV.