My grandma taught me to never talk about politics or religion at social gatherings. Sadly, she’s about to be sorely disappointed...
There has been a lot of talk in Wisconsin about breweries, the three tier system, and possible legislation concerning both. To summarize what is happening: a memo was recently found that was looking for rewrite some pretty important laws that pertain to our industry. The goal was to create a separate government entity to regulate the industry, as well as put a requirement on the books that all alcohol sold through retail establishments (which would include brewery taprooms) needs to go through a distributor. These are pretty big deals for our industry, and us in particular. We built our new facility with the idea that we would be able to operate a taproom on site. We oppose both of these ideas. Our industry is already extremely regulated by the state and federal government, on all fronts from quality and safety of beer to taxation and permits. Also, the brewery taproom is a very important part of our industry. When breweries start out, it is an important revenue stream to help get off the ground. Taking that away would seriously hinder the creation of new breweries in Wisconsin.
If you haven’t heard about it, check out this article that does a nice job summarizing what we’re going through: http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/updated-wisconsin-tavern-league-beer-distributors-draft-plan-to-narrow/article_a50900d6-ceb6-5d01-b410-d65f9d1eb0c6.html
I’ve fielded a lot of questions on this from friends and family. Some are up in arms, some are confused, and some don’t believe it to be a big deal. But here’s our take: We are not opposed to discussing new laws, but we want to be involved in that discussion.
What makes us nervous is that there are conversations happening without our industry being involved. This happened in 2011, when we lost many of our rights as brewers, and it happened as a 999 motion. What this means is that the legislation is tacked into the budget bill, so it does not get brought up for discussion, and before we were even aware, there were new laws in place that would affect us every day.
We don’t want this to happen again. Laws need to change over time. As industries grow, as consumer trends change, and as we mature as an industry and society, the laws need to be changed to keep up. All we’re asking is that we be allowed to the table when it comes time to discuss the laws that will affect us.
We recently built a brand new brewery, invested lots of money in a company, industry, and state that we believe in. We employ a growing group of individuals that we could not be more proud of, and we want to continue to do so. When laws are put forward, without our being able to voice our opinions and concerns, this has a very good probability of hurting all of us.
Please, take the time to voice your opposition to any last-minute amendments to this year’s Budget Bill that would potentially negatively impact our industry.
Also, as an aside, the Wisconsin Tavern League put out the following statement yesterday:
There have been some erroneous media reports concerning legislative proposals related to the three-tier system, as well as the position of the Tavern League of Wisconsin. I would like to make clear that the TLW does not support, under any circumstance, limiting a craft brewer or a winery from selling their own product. The Tavern League of Wisconsin values Wisconsin breweries and wineries, and we have not seen or heard, nor would we support, any proposal that prohibits them from selling what they manufacture.
We were very happy to see them come out with this stance as they are great partners that we work with every day. So thank you.