Amendment being made to draft beer bill

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, May 27, 2015

After passing in the Alabama House of Representatives without any issues, a bill that would legalize the sale of draft beer in Dallas County is being amended.

The original bill would allow draft and keg beer to be sold on and off-premises to any licensed retailer in Dallas County, but the bill is being changed to only allow on-premises sales.

The amendment would only allow draft and keg beer to be sold in restaurants and bars.

Sen. Hank Sanders said Wednesday he felt like if he left the off-premises sale in the bill, then he would be going against his word.

“I was contacted early on by some business people who asked me to oppose [the bill], and I told them I wouldn’t make a commitment but I would get back to them,” Sanders said. “Whenever I told the business people that I was going ahead and supporting the draft beer, I told them I was supporting on-premises [sales].”

Sanders fully supports the idea of on-premises sale, which would increase tourism downtown and play a role in its revitalization, but he doesn’t support off-premises sales.

“I’m a strong supporter of building better infrastructure for tourism, and I felt like the on-premise sale of draft beer would contribute to it,” Sanders said. “I don’t think that the off-premise sale will affect tourism in the same way that the on-premises sale will.”

People that strongly support the sale of draft beer feel like the amendment hurts the possibility of a brewery coming to Selma.

“That would definitely handicap anybody trying to start a brewery here and probably deter them from starting a brewery here,” said Robert Armstrong, who supports the sale of draft beer. “It would probably kill the project altogether.”

Attorney Allen Reeves, who also supports the bill, said the amendment definitely hurts the idea of a brewery coming to Selma, but it is far from the final nail in the coffin.

“It would be harder for people to get on board because they couldn’t even drink a local beer except by doing it in a restaurant,” Reeves said. “People in Selma are very cost conscious, and they don’t necessarily want to go drink all their beer in restaurants.”

Reeves wasn’t sure of the problem with off-premises sales, but Phillip Kinney, who represents the Alabama Beer Association, feels like it will cost distributors money.

“It would require pretty significant investments in some infrastructure as well as some equipment for wholesalers to be able to service and off-premises market —particularly building bigger walk-in coolers to store the kegs and such in as well as buying a bigger truck to deliver the beer in,” Kinney said.

Kinney said the ABA supports the idea of on-premises sales because of the goal behind it, which is to increase tourism and help revitalize downtown.

While the amendment isn’t something supporters want added to the bill, they will make it work for the time being.

“I think we would just have to see how it would work. I think frankly the way it is all laying out is the only way we will be able to get it passed is with that amendment,” Reeves said.

“If we can’t entice someone to invest in a brewery this year, we would just have to plug away at it next year if we’re not too late for that. Alabama has got a good bit of room left in the craft beer market, and it is just a matter of whether we get in in time before the market is saturated or not.”

The bill will go back to the House, where Rep. Darrio Melton expects it to pass with no problems. It will then go to the Senate and the governor if it is passed.