Sound, small business policies should be approved

Published 11:43 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

Some changes could be brewing in the Legislature that, if adopted, would represent genuinely small business-friendly policy.

The Alabama Alcohol Beverage Study Commission, composed of lawmakers from around the state, is recommending some changes in how craft breweries, wineries and small distillers sell their products. The changes would allow them to sell limited amounts of their products to customers for off-premises consumption.

For wineries, the changes include allowing off-premises sales at a location other than the winery.

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Here’s what the commission is recommending to the full Legislature:

Allow licensed brewers and brewpubs producing less than 60,000 barrels of beer yearly to directly sell up to 288 ounces, the equivalent of a case, per customer, per day, for off-premises consumption. The law would apply to both draft and packaged beer.

Allow wineries to establish one Alcohol Beverage Control Board-approved off-site location to sell their wines.

Allow spirit manufacturers to sell up to 750 milliliters of liquor per consumer, per year, for off-premises consumption.

Only wineries would be allowed to sell their products at an off-site location, but because most of them are in remote locations, the satellite location concept is a reasonable one.

Craft brewers, who don’t produce beverages on the scale of the national companies, have to work hard to convince distributors to carry their products and stock them in grocery stores and other retail outlets. Their marketing budgets are limited, so getting their brews into the retail stream isn’t easy.

Allowing them to sell their products from taprooms for off-premises consumption would generate some additional cash flow, which is critical for small businesses.

It also would allow craft brewers to offer limited-run, specialty brews for off-premises sale that almost certainly won’t be stocked in retail outlets, giving consumers a greater variety of choices to sample at home.

The commission’s recommendations are sound, small business policies that deserve passage by the Legislature.

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