The eyes of the craft beer community in Illinois are now on Governor Pat Quinn, who will decide both the future of craft beer growth in the state and the next steps in a federal lawsuit by brewing giant AB InBev.
Over the weekend the Illinois Senate officially sent SB754 to Governor Quinn, who now has up 60 days to sign the legislation. People we’ve talked to that are “in-the-know” fully expect the governor to sign it.
While we wait for Quinn’s signature our attention has shifted over to Judge Dow’s federal courtroom. On Friday the judge heard a motion by Anheuser-Busch to extend a stay of his ruling in the case of A-B v the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Initially a stay looked like the last thing craft brewers needed since it would stall the issuing of new self-distribution licenses, but since the governor has not signed SB754 in to law a stay looks to be the most practical move.
What follows is your obligatory A-B v ILCC refresher for those who are just tuning in. A-B, last year, tried to buy it’s remaining stake in a Chicago area beer distributor but the ILCC blocked it saying an out-of-state brewery could not self-distribute in Illinois, which is essentially what A-B would have been doing if the sale would have gone through. A-B sued the ILCC claiming discrimination because an in-state brewery can self distribute. Judge Robert Dow agreed. But instead of siding with A-B and opening up self-distribution to out-of-state breweries he did the opposite and ruled that self-distribution in Illinois should cease. He did, however, stay his decision to give the Illinois General Assembly a chance to work out a compromise – which they did in the form of SB754.
The Judge’s stay is set to expire today, but it appears it will be extended to give time for Governor Quinn to sign the legislation in to law. If/when that happens the new law will take effect immediately and Judge Dow’s initial ruling then could be deemed moot and the decision would be vacated.
That’s the good news.
The down side of this is eager central Illinois brewery, Rolling Meadows, and the handful of other breweries in Illinois chomping at the bit to come on line will have to wait as long as two months for the governor to sign the legislation and then for the legal wrangling to come to a close before they can get their first kegs of beer on tap.
As we anticipated, Judge Dow did extend the stay of his ruling until July 28th to give Governor Quinn a chance to review and hopefully sign the legislation. The clock is ticking, governor.