Alcohol Regulation Roundup: October 19, 2012

The only real change of late seems to be happening to leaves on trees. But on the alcohol regulatory reform front, the following states have taken baby steps toward updating their laws.

Alabama: Lawmakers in Alabama are talking about getting the state out of the liquor business. State Sen. Arthur Orr authored a bill that would eliminate the state’s 172 state stores and allow hard liquor to be sold by private retailers.

Illinois: In the next legislative session, State Rep. Keith Farnham plans to introduce a bill that would allow home brewers  to offer free samples at public gatherings. Although the bill is based on a similar Wisconsin law, Farnham worked with local home-brewing clubs to draft his specific proposal, which he says has a “good chance” of being approved.

Indiana: Though not on the official legislative agenda, it is likely Sunday alcohol sales will come up in the next session. Last May, Connecticut became the 49th state to allow Sunday sales, leaving Indiana as the last state in the nation to maintain its prohibition-era ban on Sunday off-site alcohol sales for all three categories of alcohol.

Kentucky: A district court judge halted an order that would allow gas stations and grocery stores to sell wine and liquor. In August, the same judge ruled the state’s laws banning wine and liquor sales at gas stations and other retailers was unconstitutional, but he ordered sales not begin immediately so state regulators  could have a chance to address the statute without creating a “legal mess.”

Ohio: A court of appeals judge upheld a decision in favor of Ohio beer wholesalers who terminated their contracts with Miller and Coors after the two merged to form one company: MillerCoors. Under Ohio law, neither the manufacturer nor the distributor may end contracts unless there’s an agreement by both parties, just cause and 60 days’ notice.  These complicated rules regarding brewer-distributor contracts are not unique to Ohio and represent one of the more complicating and frustrating barriers in the alcohol market in America.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted, 175-20, to allow craft beer sales at farmers’ markets. The measure now goes to the state senate for a vote.

Texas: Craft beer makers and brewpubs want to change the laws in Texas that prevent brewpubs from getting their beer in stores and also prevent beer manufacturers from selling their beer on-site to brewery visitors. This year, they hope to get something through the legislative process by working with the two main groups that opposed previous measures, namely the Beer Alliance of Texas and the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas. Good luck to them, since the wholesalers lobby has made clear it will not accept any erosion of the three-tiered-system they control.