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California Beer Bill Round-Up: 2015

With a new year has come some proposals for new beer legislation. I’ll track and describe proposed laws here.

AB 774: Currently, brewers can apply get a permit to sell beer at farmer’s markets, but they can’t offer tastes as winemakers can. This bill would extend permits to allow brewers to offer tastes of their product. The privilege would apply only when the brewer is located in the same county as the farmer’s market, or in a county adjacent to that county. The Sacramento Bee describes the proposal in a recent article.

SB 327: Relates to restrictions on Sunday beer deliveries. For holders of a picnic/social gathering license for sale of beer & wine, the bill would allow beer wholesalers to deliver beer on Sundays.

ACR 32: This Assembly Concurrent Resolution was originally proposed as a continuation of the prior years’ “California Craft Beer Month.” A recent amendment has it changed to “California Craft Beverage Month.” The “whereas” clauses now include not only statements about craft beer’s impact on the California economy, but also statements about small wine and spirits manufacturers’ impact. Thus, it is a more inclusive month this year. Hooray for craft beverages!

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CA ABC Issues Industry Advisory Regarding Brewery Sales of Others’ Beer

A California brewery (type 1 or 23 license) has wide latitude in sales of its own beer. It can sell the beer on premises, to wholesalers for distribution, and it can self-distribute to other licensees without limit. 

However, in a recently posted industry advisory, the ABC clarified that breweries are expressly prohibited from selling beer that is not “produced and bottled by, or produced and packaged for” them. 

There are exceptions to this seemingly clear-cut rule:

  • Brewers may obtain an off-sale retail beer and license.
  • Brewers may also obtain a beer and wine wholesaler license.
  • Brewers who also have restaurants on or next to the brewing premises can sell others’ beer and wine.

In a recent paper I wrote for a law school seminar class, I argued that small brewers’ who have no interest in operating restaurants should nonetheless have the opportunity that their restaurant-running brethren have to offer guest taps of fellow local brewers to increase consumers’ overall knowledge of the beer styles and choices available to them in the geographic area, to to facilitate their ability to interact and collaborate with one another as that is a valued element of the industry.

 

Repeal Day in Los Angeles: 1933

With many today a-twitter about the anniversary of the 21st Amendment, I thought I would take a glance at how the day was received in Los Angeles before any anniversaries had come:

The headline read: Liquor Sale Way Clear: State Prepared for Flow Today. 

First, it was before the advent of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; so it was the State Board of Equalization that “worked frantically to put California in readiness for the return of hard liquor.” Over 54,000 applications for licenses had been sent.

Draught beer would be limited to 3.2%, anything stronger had to be bottled for home consumption or to go with “bona fide meals.” Hotels were already pushing for the ability to serve hard liquor in dining rooms, as then-attorney general Webb advocated for a policy keeping hard liquor out of public eating places.

Faced with criticism regarding regulations, secretary Dixwell Pierce of the equalization board deflected back at the people, “the rigors of regulation are not due to action by the board of Equalization or the Legislature. The people voted the liquor-control amendment of the constitution. If you don’t like it, don’t blame us.” Take that!

Dixwell Pierce further warned that “sneak clubs” would not be tolerated–hard liquor could be consumed at “bona fide” clubs as if it were being consumed at home, but clubs formed for the fraudulent purpose of being able to evade the law booze it up with the hard stuff  would “not be countenanced.”

Wineries were not happy either. Edmund Rossi, of Sonoma, voiced an objection to the requirement of bottling be done in a separate facility.

Ordinary folks, for their part, were up in arms about liquor licenses being issued near schools and churches. Equalization board member Frank Stewart attempted to allay these concerns: “Where complaint is made that a license is being issued for location close to schools or churches, such licenses will be denied.” So began, apparently, the saga of well-meaning businesses negotiating the sea of resident complaints.

Stewart was not amused at one county official, who accused the equalization board of putting “what should be a clean industry” in the “hands of bootleggers, rumrunners and racketeers.”

Stewart suspected motives behind local officials’ criticism of the statewide board’s authority to issue license: “Such deliberate falsehoods as these must be inspired by some motive and if that motive is founded on a desire by certain local officials to regain absolute control of the licensing and revoking of licenses of liquor establishments I can promise them it is doomed to failure.”

Frank Stewart was right about that; the power to regulate licensing would become even more centralized with creation of the ABC. But ABC law continues to recognize local zoning ordinances in the issuance of licenses.

By way of New York Tribune, Walter Lippmann wrote in the Dec. 5 Los Angeles Times:

“They concluded that an appetite which had caused so much misery should be suppressed, that a trade which had caused so much dishonesty should be outlawed. What they overlooked was the conscience of the great mass of people who did not drink immoderately and had no part in the political corruption.”

Not everyone welcomed the repeal. In the Dec. 6 Los Angeles Times: “Plans for continuing the war against alcohol will be discussed at a meeting of the Los Angeles County Woman’s Prohibition Club tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. at the Young Men’s Christian Association Building, 715 South Hope Street.” The group would discuss plans to “support at all elections only those parties and candidates which give a definite pledge to enact and enforce a national prohibition law.”

Fortunately, those war efforts failed. Cheers!

First Prost; Collaborative Spirit of the Craft Beer Community

Greetings and welcome to the Law.of.Beer Blog. I am a law student at the University of La Verne in Ontario, CA. While I have been an active enthusiast for craft beer for, well, quite a while (I am older than the average law student), a recent writing project has rapidly advanced my interest in legal issues surrounding the craft beer industry and alcohol regulation. 

While making a particular point in that paper, I happened upon an interesting topic for additional research on the side: “guest taps.” In California, a brewer with a standard brewing license may serve their own beer on site. If they have a restaurant (“bona fide eating place”) on site, they may also serve others’ beer (and wine). Of course, they do not have to serve competing products–they have a great opportunity for a little monopoly in their little restaurant domain to focus exclusively on touting their own products. 

But many choose not to do so (some have no choice–the type “75” brewpub must carry other commercially available beers; these brewpubs are identifiable in that they may also serve wine and spirits). Rather, they place directly competing beers and beer styles from near and far fellow craft breweries on tap alongside their own. In fact, given my experience with brewery/restaurants in Southern California, I thought this was standard practice everywhere.

Not so. Although my initial method was based only on information available on web sites (include TapHunter), an early inquiry into the matter revealed some potentially interesting results. While the practice is almost ubiquitous in Southern California, it does not appear nearly as standard up north–particularly in the bay area and Sonoma/Mendocino regions. 

The dichotomy is interesting enough warrant further inquiry, I think. Reasons for having guest taps seem evident: brewers like drinking each other’s beer and collaborating, consumers of craft beer like variety. Reasons for not having them do also: your brewery is your brewery; it is where you raise awareness about your beer by serving your beer exclusively. Both choices are made, but the exclusivity choice appears to be made much more often up north. 

This inquiry was a side note to learning that several nearby microbrewers would like to be able to collaborate with their fellows in this way as well, but they cannot as they are not in the restaurant business. Bringing a food truck does not count. My paper proposes an exception that would allow them to do just that. I welcome your thoughts on the matter!