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Illinois: House committee approves beer bill

Source: THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
By Andy Brownfield
Posted May 18, 2011 @ 03:13 PM
Illinois’ craft brewers are just a House vote and Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature away from cementing their right to distribute their own beer.
A House committee on Wednesday unanimously approved the distribution proposal, Senate Bill 754, even though it was opposed by both the Illinois Craft Brewers’ Guild and Anheuser-Busch InBev – the world’s largest brewery.
“The bill didn’t go as far as we would have liked, or that brewpub owners would have liked,” said Dave Strickland, a lobbyist for the craft brewers.
The guild opposes the measure because it requires brewpubs – bars or restaurants that brew their own beer – to have a second, separate facility to qualify for self-distribution rights, Strickland said.
Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch regional vice president Mark Bordas wrote that the measure confers special privileges on “inefficient wholesalers,” while weakening competition and stifling outside investment.
The legislation, which passed the Senate earlier, defines craft brewers and allows them to self-distribute a limited amount of beer – the equivalent of 15,000 kegs.
It stems from a 2010 lawsuit by Missouri-based Anheuser-Busch InBev after the state of Illinois blocked the beer giant’s bid to buy a Chicago-based distributor.
In-state brewers have the right to self-distribute their products, while out-of-state brewers do not. A-B InBev argued that was discriminatory.
U.S. Judge Robert Dow Jr. gave the legislature a deadline to deal with the problem, but ruled that self-distribution rights would be taken away from all brewers in Illinois if no law is passed by May 31.
Chris Trudeau, owner of the fledgling Rolling Meadows Brewery near Springfield, told the committee that if the measure was not passed, his beer would have to go through a distributor to Peoria before coming back to Springfield to be sold.
Chicago-based beer blogger Ryan Hermes, originally from Springfield and co-founder of the “Save the Craft” movement, predicted the House will send the bill to Quinn.
“I think the vote in committee was very telling,” Hermes said. “At the time that the committee started, there were eight co-sponsors (of the bill), and it ended up passing unanimously.”
A Quinn spokeswoman said the governor will review the legislation if it lands on his desk.