The “Beer Jobs Bill” had a rough time of it in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee today. SB 63 was set to liberalize the rules for sales on the premises of Georgia breweries. This is important because it turns a mere factory into a tourist destination and buttresses Georgia’s burgeoning beer culture. It would add jobs, tax revenue, and it’s just plain a good idea. The original bill, which was already a compromise among the various interested parties, would have allowed visitors to the brewery to have four pints on the premises, and to buy a 12 pack to take home. This is not a lot of beer, but the selling of the beer to the customer at all was the problem for the distributors (who attract 0 tourists a year to Georgia). Their objections led the committee chair, Rick Jeffares, to introduce a substitute bill to his committee today, which would cut the amount you could serve in half, but also prevent any beer to be sold to people visiting the brewery. It would all have to be given away as a bonus to tour goers.
The tripartite liquor laws in Georgia have an interesting history and there is some reason for them to exist, but to use the outdated framework as a way of punishing small business to smooth the egos of wrongheaded entrenched interests is anti-democratic, heavy-handed, and just plain wrong. The distributors would benefit from the beer culture that’s created by microbreweries. Even they point to Sweetwater’s success as having changed the landscape. But distributors only exist to bridge the government created monopoly between manufacturers and retailers, and their fear of eroding their fiefdom led them to try and tank the bill.
Starting a small business is hard enough. Government doesn’t need to make it any harder by making it impossible to sell the fruits of one’s own labor without oceans of red tape and middlemen. This bill will head to the Senate floor shortly, and then likely on to the House. Here’s hoping either one of the other can get this bill back to where it needed to be: a compromise that helps everybody to keep breweries in this state rather than setting up shop elsewhere. That’s a solution we can all drink, and drink to.