From fellow blogger Dan:
Yesterday marked the last day of the legislative session. We had hoped two pro-beer bills would be passing. Unfortunately, neither did.
SB328, the Brewery Modernization Act, was the official Free the Hops bill for this session. Despite being a common-sense, pro-business bill that would create jobs and help a growing industry in Alabama (without costing a penny to the public purse), the House leadership decided not to put it on the agenda Thursday. We were instead relegated to a possible second agenda, meaning that if they got through with the first agenda and still wanted to work, we would be placed somewhere on a follow-up agenda. When things started slowing down Thursday, it was clear that we would not get our shot.
Unfortunately, the Brewery Modernization Act had a big holdup early on in the session after the ABC expressed concerns with it. We certainly don’t want the state agency responsible for regulating alcohol to lobby against our bill, so we worked with them to address their concerns. After a long time, we were finally able to craft a substitute bill to move through the legislature.
After that hurdle, SB328 sailed through the Senate and received a favorable report from the House Committee on Tourism and Travel. Unfortunately, all the delays meant we really only had the last 2 weeks to pass our bill through the House. They didn’t get to us.
All things being equal, the Brewery Modernization Act made it very far for its first year. But all things aren’t equal. Free the Hops decided to go with this legislation because we thought it was a common sense bill to pass in an election year and with a down economy. With the growing brewing industry in Alabama, it just seemed like the right time.
Straight to Ale is a new brewery in Huntsville expecting to debut in time for the Rocket City Brewfest. They are located in the Lincoln Mills development and have plans for a taproom at the brewery to showcase their selections. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to build their taproom for at least another year because the legislature decided not to consider the Brewery Modernization Act.
Until last week, Back Forty Beer Company was looking at two locations to build their new brewery in Gadsden. One site was if the Brewery Modernization Act passed – it had space for a tasting room and was ideally located in the historic district of Gadsden. The other site was in an industrial park if it didn’t pass. Unfortunately, the legislature this year kept a growing business off Broad Street as Back Forty has to brew it’s beer in a hidden corner far away from public eyes.
Good People Brewing in Birmingham recently moved into their new location and were hoping the Brewery Modernization Act would allow them to build a taproom at the new place. Instead, the public has to keep out of this growing business.
Olde Towne in Huntsville has an extremely spacious brewery and would like to rent it out for events and hold promotional events of their own periodically. The legislature put an end to that idea.
Montgomery Brewing Company has been around since 1995 and is the only brewpub licensee currently active in the state of Alabama, meaning it is the one place where you can enjoy a beer at the brewery. They already have a wholesaler network ready to distribute and market their beers outside of the brewery, but instead they must continue selling their beer on-premise only. They’re not allowed to expand their business by selling their beer to other bars, restaurants, and stores.
I personally know of a few entrepreneurs who have the means and desire to open a brewpub in different cities in Alabama. Most, if not all, will put their plans on hold for now because, until the Brewery Modernization Act passes, they’re so restricted on where they can open and who they can sell to, the business risk is too high.
These are some real-world examples of how the legislative inaction with regard to the Brewery Modernization Act is hindering economic development and expansion. We’re not talking abstract ideas and possibilities. There will be real repercussions due to the House’s decision not to consider this legislation.