Lately, I’ve seen a big push asking Missouri craft beer fans to alert their elected officials to vote down Senate Bill 919. I’ve read and re-read the bill and I have to admit that I’m confused. On the surface, the language appears to be harmless, almost pointless in fact.
- It’s removing restrictions for the sale of “malt liquor” above 5% in small towns.
- It opens up the sales of “intoxicating beverages” of all types for microbreweries on-site or nearby.
- It allows breweries to lease a single cooler to retailers at cost.
- It allows the sale of growlers (containers that hold 32-128 oz.) at retail establishments that are already licensed to sell beer.
- It allows for establishments to have self-dispensing units of 32 oz. of beer or 16 oz. of wine.
- It allows for microbreweries to attend festivals at a cost of $25 (bringing in no more than 200 gal.).
All of these points appear to be helpful to craft beer’s competition with “Big Beer”. In reading the impact analysis from the Show-Me Institute, it seems this bill is superfluous and the author favors repealing existing laws that are ineffectual. In doing a little more digging, it seems the only contentious point is the cooler space.
According to the bill’s verbiage:
COOLERS – 311.198 & Section B
Beginning January 1, 2017, this act allows a brewer to lease portable refrigeration units to retail licensees at a value equal to the cost of the unit to the brewer. A brewer may also enter into lease agreements with wholesalers, who may enter into sub-lease agreements with retail licensees at a value equal to the cost of the unit to the brewer. The brewer or wholesaler may also recover 2% of the total lease value at the execution of the lease. A wholesaler may not directly or indirectly fund the cost or maintenance of the portable refrigeration units.
Under this act, no portable refrigeration unit may exceed certain height, width, and depth dimensions as set forth in this act. The portable refrigeration unit may bear in a conspicuous manner substantial advertising matter about a product or products of the brewer, and no retail location may have more than one unit. Under this act, a retail licensee may sell any product from such units, but dispensing equipment may not be attached to the unit and liquor may not be dispensed from the unit. Further, if a brewer or wholesaler provides such portable refrigeration units, they shall provide the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control certain information within 30 days as set forth in this act.
Are craft brewers that concerned about one cooler? Granted, the cooler’s dimensions are not set forth in the document, so it’s possible that this storage unit could encompass an entire wall of a store. I would hope legislators aren’t leaving that open-ended. Perhaps the proponents of this bill are assuming that the only product that will fill the brewery-leased cooler will come from said brewer and if that’s the case – Big Beer will have its own cooler – then doesn’t that open up more space in the other coolers for craft beer? Perhaps that’s not the intent or perhaps I’m being naive and retailers will use existing space and the new cooler space to shill Big Beer’s own product.
Please, if I’m totally misunderstanding the issue and one of you faithful readers can help me gain a better understanding, I’m all eyes and ears. Thanks, I appreciate it.