US. Illinois Craft Brewers One Step Closer to Settling Dispute

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An Illinois Senate committee today advanced legislation to ensure that craft brewers can get their beers in the hands and homes of consumers without violating the state’s liquor laws.

Small brewers “went into business with the right and authority to self-distribute,” said state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, who sponsored the legislation to protect a small brewery in his neighborhood.

A lawsuit filed last year by Anheuser-Busch against the Illinois Liquor Commission called into question beer makers’ rights to directly sell their products to consumers. Larger breweries must work through the state’s network of wholesalers and distributors, who tap into the corporate profits in exchange for storing and delivering beer.

Trotter’s plan, which now moves to the Senate floor, would maintain that framework with slight alterations, designed to appease the federal judge who last year declared the state’s liquor distribution laws discriminatory. The ruling set a March 31 deadline, now extended to May 29, for lawmakers to correct the system.

As the legislature scrambles for a solution, Anheuser-Busch is working hard to kill the bill.

“Anheuser-Busch has always contended that all brewers in Illinois can distribute…. all brewers,” said legal counsel Ed Crane. “That’s how the law reads and we believe that the liquor commission was the one that made the mistake here.”