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Louisiana lawmakers deferred bill that could decrease beer industry regulations

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(The Center Square) — The Louisiana House Committee on Judiciary deferred a bill Thursday that would lessen regulatory burdens on the state’s beer brewing industry.

The committee voted 12-6 to reject House Bill 821, sponsored by Rep. Tony Romero, R-Jennings. The measure would’ve ended the mandate for craft brewers to use a distributor to move product between two or more in-state facilities for sale.

Under present law passed in 2022, for a brewery to transfer beer between locations by paying an outside distributor, the transferring brewing facility must have at least a 10-barrel brewing system and the receiving facility must have a five-barrel system.

Brewers are also limited to transferring an amount of beer 50% or less of the receiving brewing facility’s production of beer for the previous month.

Romero told the committee that because of the restrictions, no craft brewer is taking advantage of ability to transfer beer between locations.

“When we talk about this industry and it’s a growing industry,” Romero said. “I’ve traveled all over the United States and gone to towns like Charleston and Savannah and Hot Springs and Nashville. And if you go to those towns, you’re going to find that those are tourism destinations just like our state. They have a craft industry that is booming. And in Louisiana, ours is not.”

HB 821, which is supported by the Louisiana Craft Brewer’s Guild, would end these restrictions.

“This bill is to clean up a 2022 piece of legislation to align business practices with reality,” said Cary Koch, the executive director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild. “This is about small business brewers reinvesting in their product, reinvesting in their brands who have the means and will to create an entirely new brewery, go through the federal, state and local permitting practices. We feel like if you’ve brewed it great at one place, why would we prohibit them from bringing it to their second invested business to serve it?”

Eric Avery, the president and founder of Crying Eagle Brewing in Lake Charles, told the committee his brewery would gain “tremendous operational efficiencies” if it could transfer more barrels of brew between its two locations.

The bill was opposed by Southern Glazers, Miller-Coors, the Beer Industry League of Louisiana, the Associated Grocers and the Louisiana Restaurant Association. Their opposition centered around the three-tier system, which they say would allow craft brewers to circumvent.

“They want to circumvent every process that puts them in the marketplace,” said Rouses Markets director of compliance Daniel Pritchett. “We want to sell their product, but they don’t want to do it within the construct that has been around since 1930 and has worked quite well. Not everything has to change for the convenience of a particular, specific entity within the state of Louisiana.”

Louisiana is ranked 50th in brewers per capita, according to the Brewers Association, a national industry group. The craft beer industry of 48 breweries generated $745 million in economic impact in 2022 (26th nationally) and produced a 28th-best 204,052 barrels of craft beer.