LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Public Hearings Held on Many Alcohol-related Bills
By Lauren Daley
As part of ongoing coverage of the Connecticut’s General Assembly’s 2015 legislative session, the following is an update bills’ statuses and new bills that have been introduced to the House and Senate floors, each of which would impact the state’s beverage industry. The Beverage Journal will continue to follow these bills and others as they are submitted.
House Bill No. 5168: The act would require that a payment made by a purchaser to a wholesaler be made directly to the wholesaler’s office. Introduced by Rep. Prasad Srinivasan 31st Dist.
At a public hearing held Feb. 3, Carroll Hughes of the Connecticut Package Store Association (CPSA) stated: “We are hesitant to support a universal change to the way that each wholesaler and their respective retail clients do business…Our suggested change to the process would be to allow credit card payments. This would allow those retailers that may truly not have an ability to send a check…the option of payment in a more efficient manner.”
Members of the Connecticut Small Brand Council Inc., President Adam von Gootkin of Onyx Spirits Company in East Hartford and Vice President Doug Rankin of Missing Link Wine Company in West Hartford, also asked for the credit card suggestion in their testimony.
Read more here.
House Bill No. 5349: The act would create a cheese shop wine and beer permit to allow cheese shops to sell limited amounts of wine and beer. It was introduced by Rep. Terrie Wood, 141st Dist. Similarly, Raised Senate Bill 875 would establish a cheese shop wine retailer permit. It was introduced by the General Law Committee.
At a public hearing Feb. 3, Hughes of the CSPA stated: “If current cheese-shop retailers want to own package store permits there appears to be nothing disallowing them from doing so.”
Among others who testified at that hearing was Sam Sorkin, president of the Connecticut Food Association. He stated his association was “intrigued by the concept of a cheese shop wine and beer permit… For years the CFA has lobbied that grocery stores should be allowed to sell wine. That begs the question: Would grocery stores be able to apply for a cheese shop wine and beer permit? If the answer is ‘yes,’ we would be in favor of (the bill) If the answer is ‘no,’ we would be opposed.”
At a public hearing Feb. 19, Peter Berdon, executive director of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut (WSWC), stated: “The members of the WSWC fail to see the benefit to Connecticut censure of yet another license in addition to the 36 available liquor license types permitted under current law. This is particularly true given that a cheese shop that desires to sell wine may currently do so—all they have to do is apply for a package store license.” Hughes also testified at that hearing.
Senate Bill 391: The bill would allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work to work in alcoholic liquor permit establishments, provided they do not serve alcohol. It was introduced by Sen. Kevin D. Witkos, 8th Dist.
At a public hearing on Feb. 19, the Connecticut Restaurant Association supported clarifying the bill to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to work in restaurants with liquor permits in positions that include but are not limited to servers, hostesses or hosts, and table bussers. Also at that public hearing, Rep. Vincent J. Cadelora (R) and The Connecticut Bowling Proprietors Association supported the bill. Read more here.
Senate Bill 828: The bill would protect the public by requiring the legislative body of high population density municipalities to make certain determinations prior to the Department of Consumer Protection issuing or renewing a permit for the sale of alcoholic liquor. It was introduced by Sen. John W. Fonfara, 1st Dist.
At a public hearing Feb. 19, Berdon, of the WSWC, stated: “While the current proposal is unclear as to whether or not it was intended to include either wholesalers or importers, the WSWC strongly opposes any effort to grant to municipalities the power to determine whether or not a wholesale license or importer’s license should be issued or renewed.” The Connecticut Restaurant Association stated they seek “clarification as to the specific type of liquor permit that would require municipal legislative approval.” Read more here.
House Bill No. 5033: The act proposes to allow the holder of a manufacturer permit for cider to offer tastings, on the premises of the permittee, of free samples of cider manufactured on the premises.
At a public hearing Feb. 19, Seth Hart, co-owner of New England Cider Company in Wallingford spoke in favor of the bill. “Under the current law… manufacturers of beer are allowed to offer free tastings and samples of beer brewed on premises to visitors… A licensed Farm Winery may as well offer free samples to visitors…The Hard Cider industry is the fastest growing segment of the alcohol industry with a grown of 75.4 percent in just the law year. Current there is roughly 80 apples orchards in this state… With your help we can make the law a level playing field for all local producers.”
At the same hearing, Rep. Dave Yaccarino and Rep. Kurt Vail supported the bill. Vail stating it would “allow cider manufacturers the same opportunity that we give to those in the beer and wine industry. Cider manufacturing is growing in Connecticut…” Read more here.
House Bill No. 5119: The bill would allow farm wineries to sell brandy made from grapes harvested on premises but distilled off premises. It was introduced by the Environment Committee.
At a public hearing on Feb. 4, George Motel, president of the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, spoke in support of the bill. The Association consists of 27 farm wineries across the state that markets themselves collectively as the Connecticut Wine Trail, said Motel, who owns Sunset Meadow Vineyard in Goshen with his wife. He asked that the Committee make one change to the language of the bill. “We would like the language to read ‘brandy manufactured from grapes and fruit harvested on the premises of such farm winery.’ This change would make the law consistent with the rest of the farm winery act and allow individuals like myself, that makes wine from other types of fruit, this ability.”
Among others that spoke at the hearing, Keith Bishop of Bishop’s Orchards in Guildford and Treasurer of the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association, supported the same change in language, as did Russell Holmberg of Holmberg Orchards and Winery in Gales Ferry and Margaret and Louis Chatey, of Westford Hill Distillers, LLC in Ashford. Read more here.
Proposed House Bill 6078 would allow small beer manufacturers to sell kegs of beer directly to consumers. It was introduced by Rep. David W. Kiner, 59th Dist.
At a public hearing on Feb. 19, Hughes of the CSPA stated: “The CPSA believe that there is a three-tier system for a good reason and that it currently works quite well. Microbreweries can currently sell product right from their facilities which we believe help build the brand. Package stores support our local microbreweries and we encourage the sale of their products, including kegs, in our stores. Anything that can be done to encourage keg sales in our stores we will welcome.”
The Connecticut Beverage Coalition, Hartford Distributors Inc. of Manchester and Levine Distributing Company of Norwich, opposed the bill, stating: “Connecticut…has a very well-structured and efficient three-tier system of alcohol distribution…We believe (allowing) the brewery to sell large kegs to visitors would be a bridge-too-far, and would represent too much of a retreat from our well-functioning three-tier distribution system and our alcoholic excise tax remittance system.”
Berdon of the WSWC stated that his members have “two questions and one comment with respect to this proposal. First the term ‘microbrewery’ is not defined… and therefore it is unclear as to whom with provision (is) intended to apply. Secondly, the term ‘keg’ is similarly undefined… as ‘kegs’ can refer to containers of various sizes…The WSWC suggests that in order to voice future legal challenges… if the Committee decides to move forward with this proposal, it should impose the same restrictions applicable to out-of-state manufacturers—limiting sales to five gallons every 60 days as is permitted.” Read more here.
House Bill No. 6541: The act proposes to establish a craft alcoholic liquor distiller permit to encourage the small business of craft alcoholic liquor distilleries. On Jan. 26, it was referred to the Joint Committee on General Law. Introduced by Rep. Mary M. Mushinsky, 85th Dist.
At a public hearing on Feb. 19, Hughes of the CPSA stated: “CPSA supports this concept and has worked out agreeable language with other stakeholders. However, there is a craft distiller bill being heard on Feb. 26 which has the language that has been agreed to and we will be supporting that bill.”
The WSWC’s Peter Berdon stated: “The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut support the establishment of a ‘craft distiller permit’ provided that it addresses its concerns relative to exposing the current system to legal challenge. The WSWC has worked with members of the Small Brand Brands council (and the CPSA) to find common ground… They have reached an agreement which will accomplish the following: “One: Permit distilleries to make direct sales consumers up to 1.5 liters per day per person, not to exceed 5 gallons every 60 days. Two: Permit tastings on the premises, either with or without charge. Three: Sales at retail for manufacturers who produce less than 25,000 gallons per year. Four: Manufacturers who sell more than 10,000 gallons in a given 12 month period shall distribute its products through the wholesale system….The WSWC believes that this compromised agreement resolved its concerns while allowing small distillers in the state to showcase their products.” Read more here.
These bills, which have not had public hearings, are also in play:
Senate Bill 392: The bill proposes to allow the sale of Connecticut manufactured beer and spirits at farmers’ markets. It was referred to the Joint Committee on General Law on Jan. 22. It was introduced by Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, 21st Dist. Read more here.
Senate Bill No. 3: The act proposes to prohibit manufacturers and out-of-state shippers from requiring wholesalers to pay for liquor upon delivery and to give wholesalers in good-standing a reasonable amount of time to pay for such liquor. Introduced by Sen. Kevin D. Witkos, 8th Dist. A public hearing was held Feb. 3. Read more here.
House Bill No. 5297: The act would extend the hours for the retail sale of wine and the tasting of free samples of wine by farm winery visitors and prospective retail customers. As of Jan. 13, it was referred to the Joint Committee on General Law. Introduced by Rep. Mike France, 42nd Dist. Read more here:
Senate Bill 100: The act proposes to eliminate the revision-period during which alcoholic liquor distributors may change monthly posted prices. On Jan. 16, it was referred to the Joint Committee on General Law. Introduced by Sen. Kevin D. Witkos, 8th Dist. Read morehere.
The Beverage Journal will be following these bills throughout the legislative session. For more information, visit http://www.cga.ct.gov/.