If you thought things had come to a virtual stand still in the debate over self-distribution rights for brewers in Illinois, you would be right. There has been little to no news out of Springfield since the middle of March. That all changed this morning.
SB88 is no more. The bill, which languished in committee for over a month, has been replaced by SB754. That bill has also been amended and looks much different than previous versions of the legislation. Let’s break down the changes and what is included in this bill:
- The barrel limit for breweries that want to self-distribute is now 7,500 barrels. That is down from 60,000 barrels and 20,000 barrels respectively.
- The bill creates the classification of “Craft Brewer” in Illinois and defines it as, “a licensed brewer or licensed non-resident dealer who manufactures up to 465,000 gallons of beer (or 15,000 barrels) per year and who may make sales and deliveries to importing distributors and distributors and to retail licensees…”
- A licensed “Craft Brewer” can apply for a self-distribution exemption through the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. In that application the licensee must state, “its efforts to establish distributor relationships; (4) that a self-distribution exemption is necessary to facilitate the marketing of its beer…”
- Once the licensee exceeds the 465,000 gallons of beer per year cap they lose their right to self-distribute.
There is a second amendment filed with SB754 that also includes provisions for brewpubs:
- Someone who holds a brewpub license can also apply for a “Craft Brewer” license in order to self distribute their beer with a caveat, ” if he or she otherwise qualifies for the craft brewer license and the craft brewer license is for a location separate from the brew pub’s licensed premises.”
Let’s break this down. The barrel limit for breweries to self-distribute will be 7,500 under the proposed legislation. In order to be able to self-distribute a brewery would have to qualify as a “Craft Brewer” in Illinois, which would simply serve as a designation for distribution purposes only. If they qualify (brew under 465,000 gallons of beer a year) they can apply for an exemption with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. The latter amendment includes everything the first amendment does and also gives brewpubs the right to self-distribute as long as they qualify for a “Craft Brewer” license.
There was also an interesting paragraph in the bill directly addressing a small brewers needs to self-distribute and the integrity of the Three Tier System.
“(G) It is the intent of this paragraph (18) to promote and continue orderly markets. The General Assembly finds that in order to preserve Illinois’ regulatory distribution system it is necessary to create an exception for smaller manufacturers in order to afford and allow such smaller manufacturers of beer access to the marketplace in order to develop a customer base without impairing the integrity of the 3-tier system.”
Sources we have talked to say this bill has the support in the Senate to pass and that it is very likely to be called for a vote this week. Because this was a shell bill amended with the language you see above it is already on third reading and is poised for a vote at any time.
Now it is time to rally the troops. Call or email your state senator TODAY and urge them to vote “yes” Senate Bill 754 amendment 1 OR amendment 2. The clock is ticking with deadlines looming to pass bills from one chamber to the next so this could very well be now or never for the future of craft beer in Illinois.