‘Beer jobs’ bill advances with distilleries, but minus brew pubs

A House subcommittee on Monday advanced legislation allowing customers to purchase small amounts of beer and liquor directly from brewers and distilleries.

The Regulated Industries subcommittee, however, voted down an amendment allowing brew pubs the same opportunities. Subcommittee Chairman Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, cast the deciding vote after two Democrats and one Republican voted against the amendment, with three other Republicans supporting it.

Senate Bill 63 now goes to the full committee, which is scheduled to consider the bill at 2 p.m Tuesday.

Sponsored by Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, the bill allows breweries to sell tours of its facilities and then “give” consumers up to 72 ounces of beer —a six pack, essentially — to be consumed elsewhere. Distilleries would have the same option to offer paid tours and give away one 750 milliliter bottle of liquor.

The bill as approved Monday is different from the one that passed the Senate on March 13. The new version did not include a provision that the Senate adopted allowing brew pubs to sell its beer for off-site consumption. Martin Smith, lobbyist for the Georgia Beer Wholesalers told lawmakers doing so could lead to giant conglomerates to dominate the market.

“When you allow producers to have access and allow retail, you allow that slide into what happens in the rest of the world where large producers own everything,” Smith said. “In Mexico, 90 percent of the market is controlled by one entity. It allows the manufacturer to own the retail.”

Smith, however, said he did not object to the bill itself, which marks something of a compromise between wholesalers and the manufacturers.

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