THERE’S a new development in the ongoing saga that is Senate Bill 63 (SB 63), the so called Beer Jobs Bill. For those of us behind, or just confused by the convoluted story, here’s a recap:
• On July 1, 2015 SB 63 became law and went into effect. This law allows breweries to sell packaged tours that include “souvenir“ beer as part of package. At this point the Georgia Department of Revenue (GADOR) draws up rules that allow breweries to sell the package tours at different price points. These price differences are often based on the types of beers consumed at the close of the tour.
• On September 15, 2015, after many breweries have invested in new tasting room spaces and hired staff to work those spaces, GADOR issues a bulletin stating that tours can no longer be based on the costs of the beer consumed.
• In January of this year, after calls from state leaders and lawmakers to reverse the GADOR bulletin, a compromise is issued allowing breweries to once again sell leveled tours while also allowing food sales onsite.
• On Monday, April 4 GADOR issues proposed regulations that would reverse the previously issued bulletin and bring rules into compliance with the deal reached in January.
These new regulations are still open for public comments and have not been finalized, that could happen in early May.
In essence the new regulations essentially bring the Georgia craft beer industry back to the original SB 63 legislation that was passed last July. These regulations are as follows:
• Allow brewers to again to sell brewery tours at variable prices based on the kind of beer offered.
• Allow special events at breweries and distilleries.
• Let brewers, distilleries and wholesalers use social media to alert the public about where to buy their products or advertise special events.
• Allow third parties to sell tour tickets.
• Let breweries and distilleries sell food onsite.
Still, some in the craft beer industry are suspicious of these new regulations, suggesting that it’s the ambiguity and constant change that have made the past year so difficult.
After the GADOR bulletin was issued last September many breweries were skittish about running any type of tour.
Many in the industry felt blindsided by the bulletin and feel these new regulations are just the reinstatement of their legal rights that were taken away in September.
While the new regulations will hopefully bring Georgia craft brewers back to where they thought they were a year ago Georgia is still not on a level playing field with the rest of the United States.
Georgia is one of two states that don’t allow direct sales to brewery visitors. All of the states adjacent to Georgia allow direct sales putting the state at a disadvantage when trying to lure new and expanding breweries.
If you want to insure that local breweries are able to at least sell tours with souvenir beers then take advantage of the Georgia Department of Revenue’s comment period.
Or you can write to:
Georgia Department of Revenue
1800 Century Blvd, NE
Atlanta, GA 30345-3205
Make your voice heard—let the Georgia Department of Revenue know that you want to be able to drink beer at your local brewery.