Bill to protect microbreweries receives bipartisan support

Sponsors: Industry’s importance is reason for measure

Tom Dargen, director of brewing operations at Gordon Biersch Brewery in Broomfield, in February 2016 observes brewing at Ska Brewing Co. in Durango. The two breweries collaborated on the beer. On Tuesday, a measure that would ease some rules on local microbreweries garnered bipartisan support in the Colorado General Assembly. Enlargephoto

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file

Tom Dargen, director of brewing operations at Gordon Biersch Brewery in Broomfield, in February 2016 observes brewing at Ska Brewing Co. in Durango. The two breweries collaborated on the beer. On Tuesday, a measure that would ease some rules on local microbreweries garnered bipartisan support in the Colorado General Assembly.

DENVER – Microbreweries across Colorado have some friends at the Capitol who showed them some love on Valentine’s Day.

Senate Bill 134 would separate the retail and wholesale portions of microbreweries, wineries and distillers for the purpose of liquor license infractions. Also, it would require fines leveled to be based on a percentage of revenue generated in the retail side only. The measure passed unanimously Tuesday in the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

Examples of the infractions would be serving minors or overserving customers to the possible detriment of their health.

“Currently, the way that our licensing division works is that brewers that also have a tasting room, or wineries that also have a tasting room, are unduly penalized for code violations,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver.

Bill sponsor, Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, said growth and diversification of the alcohol-production industry necessitates adaptation of laws to ensure they are in line with industry realities.

“I think we should continue to encourage the investment in the entrepreneurial spirit that happens in this sector of the economy,” Tate said.

Ron Kammerzell, senior director of Enforcement for the Colorado Department of Revenue, saw the bill differently.

“We believe this bill sends the message that overselling and service to minors, which are two of the most serious public safety violations in the liquor code, are less important when they happen in the sales room,” Kammerzell said.

Herod said she understands the concern, but she doesn’t believe the bill would allow the industry to go unregulated.

If a brewery did violate liquor laws, it would still face sanctions and fines from the state under SB 134, she said.

Tommy Bibliowicz, owner and brewmaster at 4 Noses Brewing Co. in Broomfield, said current law could disproportionately affect him for liquor law violations compared with other establishments if it suspended the wholesale license.

“We’d lose a certain degree of our regular production, which would result in additional termination of employees who had nothing to do with the violation,” he said.

Brian McEachron, co-founder of Steamworks Brewing Co., said any shutdown of production would have a substantial impact on microbreweries.

McEachron said in an email that the legislation “makes some sense as a tap room and wholesale revenues are separate money streams that occur and are billed independently.”

He added: “Rules governing those sales are also different, so it seems that the fines for a violation of either should act as a remedy in relation to an event.”

For Herod, the bill is an acknowledgment of brewing, distilling and winemaking as Colorado industries worthy of protection by the General Assembly, Herod said.

SB 134 was placed on the consent calendar, which is generally a fast track for getting legislation through the Senate.

lperkins@durangoherald.comThis article has been updated to correct the area that Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, represents. Also deleted was a reference to where Steamworks Brewing Co. does wholesale production. It does occur at its Durango location.