Texans won’t be buying liquor on Sunday and the state’s 29 brewpubs won’t be competing with their out-of-state rivals on local grocery shelves.
And Texas breweries or liquor distillers still can’t sell a 12-pack of beer or a souvenir bottle of bourbon to tourists, as the Legislature has killed all bills related to changes in state laws on beer and liquor retailing.
“We got railroaded,” said Dan Garrison with Garrison Brothers Distillery, a Hill Country distiller who wanted the ability to sell a souvenir bottle of his bourbon to tour groups.
Garrison’s comment could sum up the frustration of the smallest players in the state’s beer and liquor industry that is controlled by giants.
Rep. Mike Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, chairs the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures, where most of the alcohol-related bills died this session.
He said it’s difficult to change decades-old laws without affecting someone’s financial interest.
Translation: It’s difficult to give small brewers and distillers an even break because doing so might put a tiny dent in the massive, oligarchic profits of the big distributors.
Most attempts to change beer or liquor laws eventually bump up against the state’s post-Prohibition rules that maintain distinct boundaries between manufacturers, distributors and retailers, in what is commonly called the three-tiered system.
House Bill 660 would have allowed brewpub owners to sell their beer through distributors at retail outlets. The brewpubs said they would expand and create jobs.
The Beer Alliance of Texas and the Licensed Beverage Distributors supported the bill, while the rival Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas opposed it. That was enough to kill it in Hamilton’s committee.
Likewise, Rep. Jessica Farrar’s House Bill 602, which would have allowed microbreweries to sell 12-packs of beer to tour groups, fell victim to competition between two distributor groups.
And once again, the deciding factor in this debate is what’s good for the distributors, and not for the customers. The customers always lose. On the one hand, legislation to allow microbreweries to sell their product onsite made it farther than it had before, and given the way the Lege works you have to hope that this represents progress. On the other hand, to come this far and see it fall just short is that much more wrenching because you could see the finish line. I’m sure I’ll feel hopeful again in time for the next session, but for now I’m just pissed off. Lee Nichols has more.
UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story.
Saint Arnold Brewing Co. founder Brock Wagner, one of the driving forces behind this and two previous legislative efforts, said he was “annoyed” at the continued failure to pass a bill that had no other organized opposition.
“We just got outgunned,” he said.
“The laws in Texas need to be changed,” he said. “Right now, the laws in Texas are biased against in-state craft breweries. It makes no sense.”
I couldn’t agree more.