Commentary

Let’s Tear Down the Wall Between Breweries and Brewpubs

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Perhaps as early as Wednesday, the Maine House of Representatives has a chance to pass meaningful legislation that would help one of Maine’s increasingly popular industries: our local craft breweries. The bill is LD 1462, “An Act Regarding the Sale of Alcohol by a Manufacturer with an On-premises Retail License,” and it is sponsored by State Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin).

Simply put, this bill will allow those brewers who also hold a restaurant liquor license to no longer have to have a wall in between where they sell beer and food for on-premises consumption, and where they sell their beer for consumers to take home.

Brewers are afforded the privilege of selling beer samples for on-premise consumption, as well as beer to take home for off-premise consumption. This is common practice in every brewery tasting room in Maine and has been for years now. However, brewers who also hold a restaurant liquor license have been required to have separate spaces for on- and off-premise sales.

Today, we are looking to ensure all brewers, even those who also have an additional restaurant liquor license, are able to offer their beer (and only their beer) for consumers to take home.

Most of you are likely familiar with the concept of a brewpub – a restaurant that is under common ownership with a brewery and which features that brewery’s beer. Sea Dog, Sebago, The Liberal Cup and Gritty McDuff’s are all brewpubs. We have at least 27 brewpubs in the state, one in almost every county in Maine, with more to come this year.

In Maine, to become a brewpub, one must be licensed as a brewery, and go through the exact same process to license their brewery as anyone else who wants to open a brewery. And one must also go through the process of licensing a restaurant, and they go through the exact same process as anyone else who wants to open a restaurant. There are certain privileges afforded a restaurant, and all restaurants should have those privileges. There are certain privileges afforded a manufacturer/ brewer, and all manufacturers/ brewers should have these same privileges.

Unfortunately, as the law currently stands, those brewers who choose to also open a restaurant are unfairly penalized and lose one of their manufacturer privileges: namely selling their own beer for people to take home from the same space where they can sample it. This bill aims to correct this.

In 2012, the legislature expanded the on-premise sampling opportunities for breweries, allowing brewery tasting rooms to flourish. Consumers visit breweries, and can purchase beer at the brewery – trying samples, or buying a bottle or a six-pack of to take home with them. These types of first-hand sampling experiences bring people from all over the country to visit our state and spend money, generating both sales and excise tax dollars for the state of Maine.

Unfortunately, for a brewery that also holds a restaurant liquor license – consumers must leave the restaurant area and enter into a physically separate room or space, just to buy a six pack of beer to take home with them. The very simple goal of this bill is to tear down that wall – literally and figuratively. This bill would allow for brewpubs to sell that brewery’s packaged beer for consumers to take home with them out of the same physical space as their restaurant – thereby allowing for more sales, and allowing these brewpubs the same privilege as every other brewery.

We aren’t the only ones encouraging this policy change, however. On March 9, the Bangor Daily News also editorialized that this would be a positive change for Maine’s economy.

This is a common sense bill that will ensure all brewers have the same opportunities to offer their products to consumers and will help avoid unnecessary red tape for many small Maine businesses.

About James Cote

James Cote is a political consultant and advocate for Maine sportsmen. He is a lifelong Maine sportsman. In 2014 he led the NO on 1 campaign to defend bear hunting in Maine. He has also advocated for private landowners at the Maine Legislature, and has worked on numerous landowner relations efforts. He was appointed by Governor Baldacci in 2007 to serve as the statewide traditional sportsmen representative for Maine’s Landowner-Sportsmen Relations Advisory Board.

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