Federal Judge Robert M Dow Jr has issued a stay on his ruling in the case of Anheuser-Busch v. Illinois Liquor Control Commission, extending the deadline for the legislature to reach a resolution in the matter to May 31st. That date coincides with the end of the legislative session. Judge Dow initially gave state lawmakers until March 31st to re-tool the Illinois Liquor Control Act after he found the Act discriminated against out of state breweries.
This is huge news for both Argus Brewery in Chicago and Big Muddy Brewing in Murphysboro. Argus self-distributes about one-third of its beer while Big Muddy self-distributes all of the roughly 400 barrels of beer they produce each year.
The current legislation in Springfield, House Bill 205 and Senate Bill 88, have seen little to no movement since they were introduced in January. Currently SB88 is scheduled for the Senate Executive Committee, but the measure has been passed over the last three meetings because there is no agreement in place between the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild (which wrote the legislation) and the beer distributors. The same goes for HB205. The measure has been awaiting a vote in the House Executive Committee but has not been called for a vote because of the lack of an agreement.
The sticking points appear to be the clause allowing brewpubs to self-distribute, which is currently not part of Illinois law, and the barrel limit for breweries. We told you last week about the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois’ stance on the giving brewpubs the ability to self-distribute (hint, they don’t like it). And we told you Friday that State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) has introduced an amendment to HB205 that would drop the barrel limit for breweries who want to self-distribute from 60,000 barrels to 20,000 barrels.
Lawmakers go on spring break next week so this week is the deadline to move bills out of committee in the House. House co-sponsor Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) hopes the bill can move this week. Right now Representative Harris’ amendment is awaiting action from the House Rule’s Committee, which filters bills out to committee and has also been known to let bill’s languish. If the amendment clears this hurdle it’s next step is likely the House Executive Committee. The Illinois House is scheduled to be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week.