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The Beer Act Takes Off

Patty Murray has voiced her support for the BEER Act.

***This post was originally published on the Brewery Law Blog, an alcoholic beverage law blog administered by Reiser Legal LLC. The office’s Doug Reiser provides Beer Blotter with regular legal and legislative commentary.***

Last week, I discussed the federal BEER Act. Today, it looks a bit more promising for the tax cut legislation that would put millions back in brewery pockets.

A fairly wide-spreading marketing effort took over this past week. You can now see an out-pouring of support from Senators across all parts of the U.S. With each passing day, it appears more likely that this bi-partisan effort will pass through the Senate.

As of today, both Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray have stepped up to provide assurance that they will back the BEER Act.  In total, The Wall Street Journal counts 17 senators as co-sponsors. But, reports last week showed that there are closer to thirty that have expressed support for the bill.

If you want to learn more about the BEER Act, read our earlier post. In that post, you can find summary information, as well as links to the language, courtesy of the Brewers Association. The Act itself is incredibly brief.

We will continue to track progress of the bill, here at Brewery Law Blog.

Beer Law: Farmer’s Market to Sample Beer?

January 12, 2011 1 comment

Beer: Coming soon to a Farmer's Market by you!

**This post originally published by BrewerlyLaw.com, beer law blog published by Seattle based Reiser Legal LLC.**

Booze at farmer’s markets? Yep.

A new legislative action by Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles would bring beer and wine sampling to Seattle’s wondrous farmer’s markets. The bill is being introduced in the State Senate as SB 5029 and can be reviewed by following this link.

Apparently, this legislation is modeled after a recent law that permits the sampling of beer and wine at grocery stores. But, this first step is a simply a “test kit”, targeting 10 sample markets and limiting sampling to one brewer or winemaker per market, per day.

We will be sure to follow the legislation through the voting process. But, I think that most will agree that its a great first step to bringing our great state’s most celebrated craftsman to the market – the brewer.

Beer Law & Legis: New Washington Ad Regulations Hit the Beer Industry

Could murals like this one in Georgetown be hitting the skids? Probably not, but new regulations are on their way.

Hallelujah! Thank you sir. Our friends over at Washington Beer Blog spurred a mighty fine conversation about recent changes to the Washington State regulations over outdoor alcohol advertising. Just in time for Beer Law & Legis.

The Blog authors cite Washington Administrative Code 314-52-070 as being amended to restrict the number, size and location of beer signs in bars, restaurants and outdoor beer events. Here are the bolded points:

  • A bar can only have 4 visible signs listing the names of beer, manufacturers, or brand names. This restriction is to signs visible from the public right of way (anywhere on the street)
  • Size limits on signs are imposed. Signs can only be  1600 square inches in size (roughly 3.5 ft x 3.5 ft).
  • No outdoor advertising within 500 feet of places of worship, schools, public playgrounds, or athletic fields (more than a football field and a half).
  • Exception for “tourist oriented designation signs” under RCW 47.36.320. Also, local governments can provide an exception to their licensees through local ordinance.

At first glance I thought that this is a much broader statute than is being let on. This does not simply apply to bars and taverns, but to distributors, gas stations, groceries, billboards, and banners.

WAC 314-52-070 regulates “outdoor advertising.” Here is the definition for “outdoor advertising” :

(1) “Outdoor advertising” by manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retail licensees for these purposes shall include all signs visible to the general public, whether permanent or temporary, advertising the sale and service of liquor (excluding point-of-sale brand signs, which are defined and governed as otherwise provided in WAC 314-52-113) as well as trade name and room name signs.

Essentially, this is every beer sign taking up space in Washington state, which is visible to the public (thankfully my phenomenal coaster collection in the kitchen is not regulated). But, be noticed that massive Henry Weinhard signs in the Belltown area or Bud Light Cruise Signs in SODO are coming down. These are not excluded under RCW 47.36.320, which targets directional and scenic signs, such as highway road stops.

Now, the old law already regulated signage within a “proximity” to the schools, churches and play fields. But the law was extremely broad, vague and allowed too much discretion. Thus, I will agree that it needed a change.

A change should be sensical. I have never been a huge fan of the 500 foot rule. This is the distance used to regulate gun sales. 500 feet is a long way. Thats over 1.5 football fields, and you would be surprised to see how many public establishments are within the 500 foot line from bars and alcohol sellers.

Something shorter than a city block is fair – which is somewhere around 300 feet. But 500 feet just gives people the chance to throw darts at establishments around the corner and down the road from public parks (which are everywhere). If there is not a danger that is clearly related to the signage prevalence, do not over regulate it. Kids are exposed to alcohol advertising everywhere they go. It is hard for us to believe that they a clearly identified and scientifically proven problem is related.

The other issues – number and size. We actually agree with the number. There are four sides to a building in 99% of the cases (good job Triangle Pub on your originality). So, the number permits you to get a sign on each side, or hedge your bets and focus on one facade.

Either way, 4 signs gives you a change to get your big 3 up (A-B, Miller, and Coors) and one micro. In this world, you should be happy that they picked anything above three. Lets just hope that Heineken doesn’t pop up and spoil the numbers. What I would hope for is some more creative advertising from MillerCoors and A-B, where they max out the 1600 square inches and join multiple labels/brands into one sign. Certainly an option and both good and bad. On one hand, its more crappy beer in your face, but its also more chances for open spots.

In the end, your favorite bars will know what to choose. Remember, we live a place where distributors fear the bars – not the other way around. A-B and MillerCoors do not take over most bars here. Look at your local taps – PBR is your midwest water beer of choice.

The size is the least of the issues. In fact, its might be for the better. Gigantic beer murals have taken over spaces in SODO, Belltown and Downtown. It has started to become a joke, a reality show advertisement. Small brewers and their distributors cannot afford to construct massive signs, or pay for the space to fit them. This regulation benefits our friends in the craft brewing world. Praise this change.

Luckily, no regulations will apply to the artistic beer murals down in Georgetown. The PBR murals have a wonderful legacy and are part of a great event, but they certainly do not meet the definition under WAC 314-52-070.

We are very open to discussion here at BeerBlotter.com. Please feel free to comment below. We want to tank Washington Beer Blog for their curiosity!

Beer Law & Legis: A Take on Beer Wars

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head stole the flick. *photo originally on Cream Ale Drinker and then probably another site - unfortunately we cannot track that. but you have our love and credit*

So we had a Belgian night last week, in preparation for the big trip (4 weeks!). So we overloaded our beer experience – with more beer stuff.

To do so, we enlisted the help of Anat Baron’s Beer Wars film. I am glad I did.

Not only does this movie open your eyes about the sickening display of force feeding our great country has endured at the hands of Anheuser-Busch (i’ll simmer down, i promise). But, the movie also paints a wondrous and thought provoking dialogue about whether or not this country and its lawmakers actually know what is best for its constituents in the beer world.

Beer Wars is a documentary-like depiction of the modern US beer industry. It aims to impress upon consumers, the trials, tribulations and pains of American beer makers.

The movie’s producer, writer, director, star is Anat Baron is the former CEO of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. She repeatedly refers to Mike’s as a beer company, which is gross. But, considering its at least a malt beverage, sold side by side with beer – we’ll humor the argument.

Ms. Baron’s story requires a hero v. villain approach. Demonizing mega-beer’s Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors, means glorifying micros Dogfish Head, New Belgium, Stone and Boston Beer. Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione is the star of this film. Sam’s undying passion for his amazing brewery, and its image, market share, future development and quality, make the movie.

But the movie is principally about the battle of the three tier system. The three tier system should be known to all severely psychotic beer consumers (like us), for its the reason we pay too much for our beer. The three tier system designates a sales pyramid from brewers, to distributers and then to retailers. The intention was to prohibit major beer makers from dominating market share, setting prices, and controlling public consumerism. Well, it failed.

The movie shows that over time, Anheuser-Busch (A-B) has actually taken advantage of the system by buying into the middle man market. Distributors, retailer chains and even small beers shops are generally controlled by the big two (A-B &  Miller Coors). Small breweries have zero say in product placement in storefronts and marketing material display. In reality, the reason your favorite microbrew is where it is on the shelf (on the bottom, side, or under something else) – is because an A-B rep decided it should be there.

Without hating them entirely, there is some good that came from A-B. Modern beer advertising and marketing were largely developed by these giants. Off-color and entertaining beer media was the brainchild of A-B and Miller. Furthermore, A-B distribution is largely responsible for the growth of brands like Red Hook and Widmer, who were able to break free from A-B control after benefitting immensely from the distribution chain.

Regardless of what we think of Anat Baron’s writing and direction, she made one critical and very believable point: A-B doesn’t make beer you want to drink. They make you have to drink their beer. I firmly believe that, and I hope that makes me feel better. Product placement, clever & cool advertising and attractive price points make the beer a “have to” not a “want to.”

It struck me again last night, while watching the Super Bowl (Go Saints!). We ran out of beer. It was frightening. Luckily  a friend had just arrived back at the house and was willing, after some forcing, to make a beer run. After pleading for no Bud products, he embarked on a beer mission. The return – bud light. The reason: most people will drink it and its cheap. This was the result after an expressed ire against purchasing this beer. In fact, it was the only beer that was demonized prior to his departure. A return of Miller, Coors, Pabst, Ranier, Olympia, Kokanee, would not have been met with such unexplainable confusion. But A-B wins the day – again.

Beer Wars should be seen. Even if you do not care about the brewing industry in America, at least watch it for Sam Calagione. Its great to see someone fighting for their livelihood and unafraid of the giants.

Finally, BeerBlotter.com is touched. A new reckoning will begin. Starting this week, a new section will be posted on each Wednesday, with a perspective and report on Beer legislation, law and policy. Our resident legal squad will pull the topics and give you the word. Don’t worry – we actually have law degrees.

If you have anything to add – ADD IT! We love comments.

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