Maryland Attempts To Reform Its Dysfunctional Beer Laws

Maryland’s Comptroller Peter Franchot

Maryland’s Comptroller Peter Franchot announced today a major legislative package that would fundamentally reform the antiquated laws and burdensome regulations that have plagued Maryland’s craft breweries.

Those obstacles were illuminated with the passage of House Bill 1283 during the 2017 General Assembly session. Since its passage, the consequences of the bill and the state’s anti-craft beer laws have become glaringly evident.

Since the bill’s passage Virginia has aggressively recruited Maryland brewers to relocate to the Commonwealth, and as we reported, Flying Dog Brewery (the state’s largest craft brewery) cancelled its plans for a $54 million expansion in Frederick, resulting in lost jobs and economic activity.

Franchot’s proposed legislation reflects the findings of the Comptroller’s Reform on Tap Task Force, which met summer into fall to get a better grasp of the state’s current laws and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for craft brewers’

The 40-member task force came from every region in the state and industry voices including brewers, distributors, retailers, consumers and lawmakers from both parties.

The Reform on Tap Act of 2018 proposes the following:

  • Removes all limits on beer production, taproom sales and take-home sales;
    • Repeals the “buy-back” provision that requires brewers to purchase their beer from distributors at a marked-up cost if they exceed the 2,000-barrel limit on taproom sales.
    • Lifts unnecessary restrictions for take-home sales;
    • Guarantees the issuance of Class B or D beer licenses to microbreweries upon request;
    • Lets local jurisdictions set guidelines for taproom operating hours;
    • Allows smaller brewers to self-distribute;
    • Eliminates franchise law requirements; and
    • Removes restrictions on contract brewing that inhibits start-up businesses

In a statement issued by his office Comptroller Franchot addressed his proposal

“We simply cannot ignore the fact that our laws and regulatory framework have stood in the way of the limitless potential of Maryland’s craft beer industry. Craft breweries are innovative businesses, and each has a measureable impact on our economy and in their local communities.

They attract local residents and tourists alike who appreciate locally-sourced ingredients, environmentally sustainable practices and each taproom’s distinct style.”

Franchot added that the legislation if enacted could take Maryland’s craft beer industry “from last in the region, to the first in the nation.”

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