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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

House OKs legislation to allow limited retail sales by breweries

Bill is designed to help small businesses, promote ‘beer tourism’ industry in Rhode Island

Legislation cosponsored by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to allow breweries, distilleries and wineries to sell limited amounts of their products to visitors for sampling and off-site consumption has passed the House of Representatives.

The bill is intended to assist microbreweries, in particular, which are banned entirely from selling their products at retail at their plants under current law, but would like to do so to be part of the growing “beer tourism” industry.

“Microbreweries are a growing sector in Rhode Island, and we should give these hardworking small businesses the opportunity they need to get their products into the hands of consumers, who have been asking us for increased access. Many don’t realize the value these small manufacturers add to our economy, and increased sales will equal more revenue and more hiring locally,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The legislation (2016-H 8100Aaa), whose primary sponsor is Rep. Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket),  allows breweries, wineries and distillers to sell up to 288 ounces per day at retail to each visitor for consumption off the premises, in containers no larger than 72 ounces each. 

Additionally, it would enable them to sell up to 72 ounces per person per day to each visitor for consumption on the premises, allowing visitors to sample their products before purchasing. The limits are designed to allow visitors to take home up to the equivalent of four six-packs of 12-ounce bottles, while also accommodating growlers, the larger jugs popular among craft beer aficionados.

Andy Tran, owner and founder of Whaler’s Brewing in Wakefield, said, “The bill is a step forward for modern small business regulation. It helps both Whalers and Rhode Island finally grow and be competitive in this dynamic industry.”

Legislators worked with local brewers to develop the legislation, including Dorian Rave, the owner of Ravenous Brewing Company in Woonsocket.

Rave said being able to let visitors sample and leave with his products is critical to building his brand, and without that ability, it’s hard to attract visitors and spread awareness of his company.

“We’re a little off the beaten path in Woonsocket, and this gives people a reason to visit. It gives us the opportunity to provide samples and let the public try our product to increase knowledge of it,” said Rave. “It also levels the playing field, since we’re surrounded by states that already allow it.”

Brent Ryan, the owner of Newport Storm Brewery and president of the Rhode Island Brewers Guild said tremendous growth of the beer tourism industry over the last decade has helped small breweries develop a following, and Rhode Island should help its brewers take part.

“Changing the rules, encouraging visitation, helps us get our brands out. These are small companies that don’t have big marketing budgets,” he said.


The bill passed the House May 19, and has been transferred to the Senate. Other cosponsors include Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown).