As the legislative battle for loosened brewery restrictions rages in Maryland, the state’s chief alcohol industry regulator has gone on record to voice strong—and combative—support of the breweries fighting for change.
Speaking with DC Beer about a bill meant to represent a “compromise” between feuding industry stakeholders, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said the legislation's idea of "compromise" is actually “a perfect example of why people are fed up with Annapolis.”
“Some lobbyist or special interest can come in, and they have the political power to make deals in smoke-filled back rooms, and protect their interests or get special treatment,” he tells DC Beer. “I am the chief alcohol regulator in the State of Maryland and want the people to know that I oppose this bill.”
As we’ve covered, Maryland’s small breweries—along with some newfound support from new neighbor Diageo—have been trying to push to the governor’s desk a piece of legislation that would allow them to sell more beer from their taprooms. Currently, they can only sell 500 barrels per year for on-premise consumption. They’ve asked to raise the cap in different bills to between 4,000 and 5,000 barrels—a dramatic uptick, for sure, but still a pittance compared to what is permissible in most every other state. However, as is tradition, these efforts have been met with ardent opposition from the state’s wholesalers and retailers, who argue affording brewers more latitude would rupture the good and fair three-tier system.
Which brings us to HB 1283, the so-called “compromise” bill. If passed, it would triple the taproom barrel limit to 2,000 barrels (though they could sell 3,000 barrels, if each subsequent barrel after 2,000 was sold to a wholesaler and bought back). It would, however, also dramatically cut their legal operating hours and ban brewers from pouring other companies’ beers. As DC Beer notes, the bill passed the House with a 139-0 vote. And Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, the man charge of regulating the state’s booze business, is sick of this shit.
Here are some choice moments of Franchot’s pure, unadulterated wrath from DC Beer’s interview:
“The buy-back provision is nothing but crony capitalism. That a brewery would have to purchase its own beer, after paying to manufacture it, makes no sense. It is crony capitalism. This is why citizens are so angry at Annapolis. Some well-connected interests can just come in and get what they want.”
Yeah, but won’t this harm Maryland’s bars?
“No, there is no direct competition between bars and brewers. I like Delegate Branch, I do, and have a lot of respect for him, but what he has done with this bill is awful. I think the Delegate is way off with this notion of compromise. This bill is not a compromise. Delegate Branch is driving a stake through the heart of the craft brew industry and should be ashamed, really.”
These fights happen all over the country, and there seems to be no consensus regarding what would or wouldn’t destroy the three-tier system (despite there being case studies present in literally every single state). And pols have before voiced supportive opinions. But seldom do brewers find such a plainspoken and angry ally in the government as they’ve found here in Franchot. It’s kind of nice! Please, do read DC Beer’s whole interview with the righteously angry gentleman.
MD Comptroller Peter Franchot Weighs in on HB 1283 [DC Beer]