Photo Courtesy Flickr, Peat Bakke
The Montana Tavern Association has been working on a bill (LC1429) they expect to be formally introduced next week which would change the licensing requirements for breweries in the state. The bill would require breweries with larger tap rooms to purchase a license similar to a beer and wine license.
Right now, breweries purchase a much cheaper brewing license. These companies can operate a tap room from the hours of 10 AM and 8 PM and can sell only sell 48 ounces of beer per person, per day.
Montana Tavern Association lobbyist John Iverson acknowledges those restrictions but says some of these breweries operate in a very similar way to a bar and should have to play by the same rules.
“There’s a substantial amount of regulation that licensees are subjected too that a brewery with their sample room privilege are not subjected to,” Iverson said. He says the taproom provision of the bill was never intended to be used for broad retail sale of a brewery’s beer. “It was intended for a small sample room and an opportunity to introduce customers to their product.”
“Were not the same kind of a business, so we don’t think we should be playing by exactly the same rules,” said Executive Director of the Montana Brewers Association Tony Herbert. He says brewers are indeed following the intent and spirit of the 1999 laws governing breweries put in place by the legislature. Herbert points to restrictions already in place for breweries, such as the operating hour and serving restrictions. “One of the key things is we can sell only the beer that we make which we, with the sweat of our brow. We cannot sell others.”
Herbert has put forth his own bill (HJ18) on behalf of the brewers association. It’s being carried by Representative Christy Clark (R-Choteau). This bill would require a study over the next two years to study the state’s overall alcohol licensing process. The study panel would include representatives from stakeholder groups like taverns, breweries, wineries, distilleries and distributors coming together with lawmakers. Herbert says this process could “Figure out solutions that…could be more comprehensive, more lasting, that are not about one sector of this industry.”
John Iverson with the Montana Tavern Association says his group’s bill already has the potential to solve licensing conflicts between bars and breweries.