House panel approves brewery sales

Print More

Flickr commons/Little Visuals

A House committee approved a bill that would allow craft brewers to sell beer on site.

Mississippi moved closer to stepping into the 21st century, lawmakers said Tuesday, by approving a once-controversial measure to allow craft breweries to sell their products on site.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which deals with taxation issues, voted to send House Bill 1322 for consideration by the full House.

Provisions of the bill state that breweries that sell less than 60,000 barrels of beer can sell customers up to two cases of beer per day between 7 a.m. and midnight.

Currently, state law prohibits onsite sales. Breweries are allowed to offer samples after giving tours.

Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, said the bill would not only bring Mississippi into the 21st century but also make the state competitive with neighboring states that allow brewery sales.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston

“When this bill is passed in a final form, we will have, at no cost to the state, additional jobs created in the state,” said Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston.

At least 14 craft breweries operate in Mississippi. The Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association estimates craft beer is a $56 billion industry that contributes 424,000 jobs nationally.

Zuber offered an amendment that would allow out-of-state companies that purchase craft breweries in Mississippi to also operate tap rooms and sell beer on the premises.

An onsite sales bill died in the 2016 legislative. In the fall, beer distributors, which often represent large macrobrewing corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, and small breweries reached an agreement to support a bill in the 2017 session.

This issue has been vetted over the last several months by the association’s members who want to help the Mississippi craft brewers succeed and thrive while not causing any irreparable harm to the beer industry’s three-tier system,” Ricky Brown, president of the Mississippi Beer Distributors Association, said in a September press release.

Matt McLaughlin, an attorney for the Mississippi Brewers Guild, said his group learned from last year’s experience to bring a stronger bill this year.

“An effective strategy over here is building coalitions and building consensus among all the individuals and interests that have an interest in a particular subject matter. I think we probably fell short doing that last year and this year we were much better at accomplishing that,” McLaughlin told Mississippi Today.

The committee also raised their glasses to pass several other alcohol related bills. They include:

HB 1320 would allow the cities of Vicksburg and Clinton to adopt so-called go cup ordinances, allowing patrons to take spirits from one establishment to another.

HB 411 would establish Hinds County’s 2nd judicial district, which includes most of the county that is not the city of Jackson, as a qualified resort area, which would allow bars and restaurants to sell liquor later into the night.

One measure that failed, HB 1318, would have permitted package liquor stores to sell non-alcohol-related items such as potato chips and olives that are often consumed while imbibing.