Rob Larson, brewmaster at Tyranena
has finally voiced his opposition to the Brewpub Tourism Development Act:Today, all small breweries are essentially treated equally. We can all bottle, keg, distribute and are permitted two liquor licenses (one at the location of the brewery and the second on property owned by the brewery). This has created a level playing field between small brewers, whether they choose to have a restaurant or just a tap room. The new legislation (28 pages in length) creates an uneven environment, one which favors brewpubs over microbreweries... and then favors certain brewpubs over others. The bill would permit brewpubs to brew, bottle, keg, distribute and have up to six locations without the onerous financial burden of owning all the real estate. In essence, they can do everything a microbrewery can do... but have four more locations and not be required to own all the real estate. I personally enjoy eating and drinking at the state's brewpubs... but they are also competitors for draft lines and potentially bottle placements in the store. I do not think the state should be enacting legislation that gives them a competitive advantage over us.
Gray's Brewing Company has a brewpub (Gray's Tied House) in Fitchburg, but because they have stand alone brewing facility in Janesville, they would be prevented by statute from opening up any additional brewpubs while The Great Dane Pub and Brewery would be able to do so. The Milwaukee Ale House is hoping to open a second pub location as well as a stand alone microbrewery... but would be prevented from doing so under this legislation while others can have six locations. Quite frankly, I think all breweries should be able to have up to six liquor licenses. I would enjoy seeing a chain of Sprecher or Capital Beer Halls across the state... a number of Leinie's Lodges... or a bunch of Lake Louie Fish Houses... or New Glarus Swiss-themed pubs with chocolate on the menu and clocks on the wall. Personally, I would love to have a chain of bluegrass dance halls in key underserved markets (Stacey thinks a chain of Tyranena Jerk Joints would be more reflective of my personality). But these are things that cannot come to pass under this legislation. In fact, the Granite City brewpub chain would be limited to only two locations due to the way in which they brew... is that really fair?
Even the title "Brewpub Tourism Development Act" frustrates me. Do only brewpubs bring in tourists? Is the restaurant really the thing that brings people to town? I suspect the hundreds of thousands of people that tour Miller Brewery might disagree. Or the huge throngs that pass through Sprecher, Lakefront or Leinie's each week. Or the tons that drive down to little New Glarus. Or the thousands that we bring into Lake Mills each year either just to come to the brewery or for many of our special events.
I am not opposed to the Great Dane being able to expand from two to six locations... I just want fairness in how it is done. Let all of us breweries have up to six locations.