Posted: Apr 4, 2013 10:47 AM by MTN news
Updated: Apr 4, 2013 10:49 AM
HELENA - A Montana House committee decided to table a controversial bill on Wednesday 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 springing 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.
Brewers in Missoula, and across the state, are greeting the news of the bills demise with relief, but also looking forward to a second measure that calls for a complete review of the state's liquor licensing system.
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.
Relief over House Bill 616 being shelved is mixed with reconciliation as Draught Works Brewery in Missoula.
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 explained.
He added that the brewers are hoping to work with the tavern owners and distributors to find changes that will be beneficial to all three sectors.