Montana Beer Laws, 2017 Legislature
Posted by tom regan (+781) 2 years ago
A couple interesting bills involving BEER in the 2017 Montana Legislature.

HB 541 would increase the amount of beer a brewery can produce and still operate a tap room from 10,000 barrels a year to 60,000 barrels. This bill would allow some breweries to immediately increase production and not have to shut down their taproom.

Of course, the Montana Tavern Association is expressed their opposition to this bill. Once again, they are trying to prevent competition to their tired old business model.

HB 462 would allow community colleges and other institutions of higher learning to own a brewery license and be eligible for a taproom in accordance with the current “small brewery exception” so long as the brewery/taproom is associated with a beer brewing curriculum. This is a good idea and would help support the brewing industry in Montana by providing a formally trained work force.

Once again, the Montana Tavern Association is opposed to this bill. They are worried that students at these educational breweries would sell beer to their underage friends. Because, you know, that never happens in a regular bar.

http://billingsgazette.co...f6f0b.html

http://growlerfills.beer/...breweries/
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+7
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+13074) 2 years ago
As I have said for years, comprehensive reform of Montana's antiquated post-Prohibition liquor laws are long overdue. Here's what I would do:

1. Enact a temporary tax on all alcohol sales to create a temporary fund.

2. Have an independent commission review and determine the fair market value of the existing liquor and beer and wine licenses in every geographic area, based on most recent data available.

3. Use the temporary fund to reimburse the tavern owners the fair market value of their licenses.

4. Then do away with the whole stupid quota system, and revise the alcohol licensing and sales codes to bring them up to the 21st century.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+13997) 2 years ago
5. Ban the manufacture and sale of Busch and Busch lite.
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+2
Posted by Oddjob (+181) 2 years ago
Reply to Gunnar Emilsson (#370882)
Gunnar Emilsson wrote:
As I have said for years, comprehensive reform of Montana's antiquated post-Prohibition liquor laws are long overdue. Here's what I would do:

1. Enact a temporary tax on all alcohol sales to create a temporary fund.

2. Have an independent commission review and determine the fair market value of the existing liquor and beer and wine licenses in every geographic area, based on most recent data available.

3. Use the temporary fund to reimburse the tavern owners the fair market value of their licenses.

4. Then do away with the whole stupid quota system, and revise the alcohol licensing and sales codes to bring them up to the 21st century.




I agree that much could be done to fix the liquor laws in Montana. What I do find curious about your plan is taxing consumers to buy out the license owners. What obligation are the taxpayers (or the State) under to bail out tavern owners on their private property licenses? Just curious to hear your reasoning on this.
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Posted by David Schott (+13637) 2 years ago
Reply to Oddjob (#370911)
You have to compensate existing liquor license holders in some way. Rather than a tax, they could charge an application fee for new liquor licenses and those funds would be used to compensate existing license holders. Then the new licensees could charge higher prices to cover the cost of the application fees. No new taxes. It's kind of like how Donald Trump wants to pay for the Mexican wall by adding import tariffs on Mexican goods.

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Posted by Oddjob (+181) 2 years ago
I don't agree with the idea that these owners require any compensation involving the State or the taxpayer. Yes the State created the quota system which was a stupid idea. But on the other hand, a consequence of the quota system was it created a protected monopoly of sorts for the owners, who have benefited greatly by having the State control competition. If the quota system was not benefiting this protected class, their MTA lobbyists wouldn't be schmoozing every politician who shows up in Helena to maintain the status quo.

The State should consider moving to a privileged business license system run by the Counties. That would create local control and keep Billings from interfering in what goes on in Butte. That sort of thing seems to work pretty well here, although the "good 'ol boy" system is also alive and well as it is everywhere.

The legislature could grant the owners an ample time period (5 years?) to revise their business plan or deal with any encumbrances, but since the State claims the power to regulate, it only follows that the State has the power to decide how it regulates.

The lawyers will stretch this out 10 or 20 years, but that will happen in the case of any change. At least the State would have begun to move away from a bad situation.

On another topic about another bad situation, is the State still in the liquor business with brick and mortar stores, with State employees running them?
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Posted by David Schott (+13637) 2 years ago
Reply to Oddjob (#370917)
They had a liquor license sell for $1 million in Gallatin County and others go for $500,000 (Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle) so I can't blame those owners for wanting to protect that investment.

I think Montana contracts with private parties to operate state liquor stores now.
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+13074) 2 years ago
In addition to Dave's point that in all fairness the existing license holders should be compensated for their investments, there is also the issue of getting the Montana Tavern Association on board for any revision of liquor laws. Unless change is supported by the MTA, there is no way any significnat alcohol sales reform is going to get passed by this state legislature. As Governor Schweitzer used to say, lots of thick steaks and old whiskey gets consumed in Helena during the legislative session.

Yes, liquor stores are now owned and operated by private parties, but liquor distribution is still controlled by the state, so it really doesn't make that much difference than it did in the old days.
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Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6174) 2 years ago
Just be glad your don't have to build a wall between the bar and the dining area so your precious kiddies don't see devil drinks being mixed and poured.
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Posted by Oddjob (+181) 2 years ago
I agree that nothing will happen that the MTA isn't on board with. But I also think that deep down in their dark hearts even the MTA would like to get rid of the quota system just to make the process easier for their members to deal with. It's going to take some sort of compensation to get this matter off TDC.
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+13074) 2 years ago
Reply to Oddjob (#370944)
Oddjob wrote:
I agree that nothing will happen that the MTA isn't on board with. But I also think that deep down in their dark hearts even the MTA would like to get rid of the quota system just to make the process easier for their members to deal with. It's going to take some sort of compensation to get this matter off TDC.


So, we are in agreement then. I just think the easiest vehicle to generate a fund for compensation is a temporary "sin tax" on all alcohol. If we tried to restrict it to a tax on retail establishment alcohol sales, the MTA won't get on board. If we try to get it from the general fund the teetotalers will cry foul.
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Posted by Oddjob (+181) 2 years ago
We do, sort of. I just don't see that imposition of a tax that benefits private parties is a viable option. The general perception of liquor peddlers is they are fat cats and in most cases that's not overblown. The hue and cry from the alleged aggrieved would be a world class s**t storm. I think it's going to have to be some sort of political quid pro quo built in to a revised licensing system. People will still squawk, but something like that won't be perceived as having the State and the bar owners hands directly in the patrons pockets.

[Edited by Oddjob (2/28/2017 12:43:25 PM)]
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+13074) 2 years ago
I have known several tavern owners over the years, and I wouldn't call any of them "fat cats". They are a hard working lot who deal with a lot bigger problems at work than I do, mainly with staff and drunk/disorderly clientele. They often have to take over shifts from employees who call in sick at the last moment, as they can't find anyone else to come in.

As a frequenter of tavern and taprooms, I would be more than happy to pay an extra quarter per pint for a couple of years, if that would mean the end of the internecine conflict between the breweries and the bars every legislative session. Of course, I think I don't pay enough taxes, so I am a bit different that most of you.
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Posted by tom regan (+781) 2 years ago
Here we go again. MTA stooge, Senator Ed Buttrey (R) Great Falls, has thrown a big wrench in HB 541. He feels that taverns and bars need special treatment from the government because they are losing business to breweries and taprooms. I don't understand how republicans can blather on about free market economy this, and capitalism that, and then pull this crap. If people wanted to go to a bar instead of a taproom, they would. The MTA and Ed Buttrey thinks that bars and taverns are on not on a level playing field because they cannot produce their own beer. Yet breweries are the ones dealing with limits on sales and operating hours.

HB 541 passed the House 85-14

http://growlerfills.beer/...h-to-beer/
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