Posted: Apr 3, 2013 8:20 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
HELENA - A Montana House committee is tabling that controversial bill that would have imposed more restrictions on the operations of the state's growing craft brewery industry.
House Bill 616 would have implemented new rules governing operations at the craft breweries which have been spring up around the state as more and more consumers opt for the craft beers. The Montana Tavern Association had been pressing for the rules, saying the craft operations had been given an unfair advantage by the original laws which had allowed on-site "sampling" of craft beers.
But the brewers blasted the measure during a heated hearing before the House Business and Labor Committee last week, saying the rules would force them to compete for a handful of already expensive liquor licenses.
Today the sponsor of the bill, Representative Roger Hagan of Great Falls asked that the measure be tabled in committee, effectively shelving the idea indefinitely.
The craft brewers had been in favor of HJ-18, a measure that's already passed the House and is before the Senate which would review the state's controversial, and expensive, system of allocating liquor licenses.
At Draughtworks the relief over House Bill 616 being shelved is mixed with reconciliation.
Owner-brewer Jeff Grant says they had just bought massive amounts of equipment to move into distribution when House Bill 616 cropped up, raising questions about their business plan, "It became kind of awkward timing for us. But the last thing we want to do is to create any animosity. And we're just hoping moving forward with HJ 18 the three parties can get together and come up with something that really does benefit everyone."
Grant says the brewers are hoping to work with the tavern owners and distributors to find changes that will be beneficial to all three sectors.