Better beer bills in the pipeline at the State House

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We’re loooong overdue for an update on the push to improve the beer laws in Rhode Island. Good news: there’s been some progress! Two bills “Relating to Alcoholic Beverages — Manufacturing and Wholesale Licenses” have been introduced at the State House and would be a big step toward raising the bar for the state’s brewers and consumers. [FYI, a real head-scratcher of a bill — H 7303 — was introduced on January 22. It proposes to authorize taproom sales but adds a new limit: “(the) manufacturer shall not sell to any one consumer more than one-half (.5) liters of alcoholic liquor per day, nor more than five (5) gallons of alcoholic liquor in any two (2) month period.” Huh?]

H 7705, which was introduced in House on February 24, proposes to make amendments to Sections 3-6-1 and 3-6-1.2 of the General Laws in Chapter 3-6. H 7705 would “authorize the sale of beverages for consumption on premises where sold provided that the manufacturer does not sell an amount in excess of three hundred seventy-five milliliters (375 ml) per visitor of distilled spirits and seventy-two ounces (72 oz) per visitor for malt beverages per day.” [Pro tip: do not consume 72 ounces of malt beverages in one visit to a manufacturer.]

And: “The license does authorize the sale of beverages produced on the premises by the half gallon bottle known as a ‘growler’ to consumers for off-premises consumption to be sold pursuant to the laws governing retail Class A establishments. The sale of beverages for off-premises consumption shall be sealed in bottles or other sealed containers.” Translation: breweries could sell an unlimited quantity of beer. The “Class A” designation would basically give breweries all the rights of a retail store. [S 2382, introduced in the Senate on February 10, is similar to H 7705.]

On March 22, the House Committee on Corporations “recommended [that the] measure be held for further study.” We asked Rep. Joe Solomon [D-Warwick], who introduced H 7705, about the prospects for passage and what will happen next. He said: “Generally, all bills are held for further study so that legislative staff has the opportunity to make corrections and receive input on proposed legislation. I’m optimistic that this bill will have an opportunity to pass. The committee members were very happy with this bill and sympathized with the local brewers and the opportunities for job growth. In the event this bill is set for passage, the committee will post the bill for consideration and vote on it or an amended version of it.

“If the committee decides to vote on the bill this year, it could occur anytime before session ends which could be sometime before June,” Solomon added. “This is a pro-business, pro-jobs bill that allows our brewers to become more competitive in the market. It promotes tourism and does not cost the state any taxpayer dollars. With the expansion of small brewers nationwide, it is time for Rhode Island to go ahead and promote our local businesses.”

You can follow the progress of H 7705 at the state’s Bill Tracker page. In the meantime, contact your legislators and encourage them to support H 7705 and S 2382.

[And to read much more about the state’s beer laws, please read  our opus, “Growlers and beyond: raising the beer bar in Rhode Island.”]

[And click here to sign the petition to “Support the passage of better beer laws in Rhode Island.”]

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