We are excited that tomorrow in Mobile will be the first public hearing of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Study Commission, and today is a good time to take a step back and think about where our local brewery laws are.
Alabama policy-makers have a stated goal of growing the economy and jobs, with a particular emphasis on manufacturing. We are encouraged that the commission is looking into our proposals for advancing the industry by making Alabama’s alcoholic beverage laws consistent and competitive with the rest of the country. Here are some signs that changes are drastically needed.
1. Alabama is the only state that doesn’t allow a brewery visitor to leave with beer
We’ve said it a dozen different ways, but the core of the matter is that this restriction is perhaps the most unjustifiable impediment to small business breweries in Alabama. Wineries in Alabama can sell you a bottle of wine, and breweries in most states can sell you beer with few restrictions. There is no justification for this.
2. Alabama is one of just 13 states with no self-distribution privileges for small brewers
Approximately three-quarters of states recognize the unique situation of a startup brewery and allow small brewers to distribute their own products, at least until they reach a certain production volume. Many states also allow small brewers to concurrently distribute their own products for promotional events such as festivals and farmers markets.
3. Large craft breweries are passing over Alabama when selecting expansion sites
Stone Brewing Company received several bids from Alabama economic development officials but could not seriously consider them due to the state’s legal environment. Cigar City Brewing Co of Tampa directly stated that Alabama’s legal environment led them to not even consider the state for their planned expansion.
4. South Carolina is now getting interest for expansions after changing their law last year
When Alabama failed to change its brewery laws in 2014 in an effort to entice Stone Brewing Co to consider the state, many of those opposed to change made the argument that Stone would never locate in Alabama anyway. This self-defeating, underachiever claim doesn’t hold water when one looks at South Carolina. This Deep South state did change their laws in 2014 in an effort to attract the large craft brewer. Although Stone ultimately decided to go with a site in Richmond, both Cigar City Brewing Co and Deschutes Brewery have recently been executing scouting visits to the Palmetto State.
5. Alabama ranks 50th in economic impact per capita from craft beer
As much as craft beer is exploding across the state, Alabama is woefully behind. According to an annual state-by-state economic analysis from the Brewers Association, Alabama ranks 50th in economic impact per capita from craft beer.
6. Direct sales alone would lead to 655 jobs, generate $12.3 million in taxes, and create $100.9 million in economic output
According to an economic impact study we commissioned early this year, allowing Alabama’s direct sales laws to be competitive with the rest of the country would allow for significant expansion of the industry. This expansion would lead to more jobs and more tax revenue for a cash-starved state. The state and local taxes would equal about $6.5 million with the rest going to the federal government. This is direct evidence of how much Alabama law is holding back the emerging industry.