SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 18, 2013

Lawmakers asked to change brewing, license laws

(Continued)

Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams Brewing Co., said he began brewing beer at his kitchen table in Massachusetts nearly 30 years ago. He said he hopes fellow craft brewers can follow in his footsteps, but fears the ties to wholesalers will hold them back. Today, Sam Adams has 1 percent of the market share of beer in the U.S.

“When I started brewing Sam Adams, I realized something very surprising here in Massachusetts – once I sold my beer to a distributor, they held the rights to my beer forever. Not my lifetime, or my children’s lifetime, my grandchildren’s lifetime — forever,” Koch said.

The system served a purpose 40 years ago, but is now an unnecessary hindrance to brewers and their ability to grow jobs, Koch said.

Another bill before the committee would give control of liquor licenses to municipalities.

At-large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley urged lawmakers to overturn the state’s “antiquated” liquor license law by lifting caps and wrestling control away from the state to give it to local communities.

Pressley told lawmakers a 1933 law that gives the state authority over liquor license caps hurts small restaurant owners who are unable to find an available license and deprives neighborhoods of needed economic development.

Often the only way to get a license is to buy one that someone else is holding — a task that some say is nearly impossible or extremely expensive.

Rep. Theodore Speliotis, D-Danvers, urged his colleagues to end the ban on out-of-state shipments of wine sent direct to consumers. Speliotis said it is a reasonable proposal that would allow residents to belong to online wine clubs where they can buy unique vintages from around the world. Consumers in 40 other states have that ability, he said.

In March, former Patriots football quarterback Drew Bledsoe — now a vintner — met with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Speliotis to encourage legalizing direct wine shipping.

Opponents argue it would make it easier for minors to access alcohol. Speliotis told lawmakers last week that technology is so advanced it would be easy for sellers to identify the buyers.

Similar proposals have failed to win approval in the Legislature in the past.

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