HOUSE LOOSENS RESTRICTIONS ON PUB BREWERS
By Katie Lannan
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 6, 2017.....House lawmakers are giving pub brewers in Massachusetts a reason to raise their glass.
A bill the House passed last Wednesday would let pub brewers sell bottles for off-premises consumption on Sundays and holidays, a status already enjoyed by brewers who grow their own hops and grain.
Framingham Rep. Chris Walsh, who has two pub breweries in his hometown, filed the legislation.
"Breweries have become a really big deal in Massachusetts -- and other places, but in Massachusetts, they have become sort of a center of tourism," Walsh said. "And the people who go to breweries, test out brews and whatnot, are people who travel really quite some distances. If I go down to Jack's Abbey or Exhibit A and look at the cars in the parking lot, the license plates are from New York and Rhode Island and Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine. It's become sort of a manufacturing business that really does bring a lot of activity into the area. I think we need to sort of get behind them and make sure we're doing everything we can to allow them to be successful, and I think this is a good start."
According to the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, there are more than 120 operating breweries -- including brewpubs, farm breweries and manufacturers -- in the state, a roughly threefold increase from the 34 brewing licenses that had been issued a decade ago.
In addition to on-premises liquor licenses for restaurants, bars and hotels, and off-premises licenses for package stores and supermarkets, Massachusetts offers special categories of licenses for pub breweries and farmer breweries.
Farmer breweries grow their own hops or grains, while pub breweries do not. Pub brewers can sell to licensed wholesalers and can serve their products on the premises.
Current law, Walsh said, allows farmer brewers to serve on Sundays, but not pub brewers. He said his research showed that pub brewers were much more prevalent in Massachusetts than their farmer counterparts.
Walsh's bill (H 209) would need approval from the Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker to become law. It's now before the Senate Rules Committee.
Massachusetts has had a long history of restricting liquor sales on Sunday, and many of those laws have been lifted or eased since 1990, when alcohol sales on the Sunday immediately before Christmas and immediately after New Year's Day were legalized.
Sunday liquor sales became legal statewide in November 2003. In July 2014, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law giving retailers the green light to sell alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, two hours earlier than was previously allowed.
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