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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Local brewers and distiller get a boost

Bill is designed to help small businesses, promote tourism niche

drinking want keep coming whiskeyThe General Assembly has passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski to allow breweries and distilleries to sell limited amounts of their products to visitors for sampling and off-site consumption. 

The bill passed the General Assembly and will now go to the governor’s desk.

The sponsors introduced the bill to assist Rhode Island’s growing brewery and distillery industries and to encourage an increasingly popular segment of the tourism industry.

“I see this primarily as a way to help small businesses that have some really terrific potential. Getting their products into consumers’ hands is critical if they are going to become known and gain a following. It’s also a way to encourage tourism, since there are enough in each area of the state for enthusiasts to make a day of it, visiting breweries or distilleries, sampling products, and buying some to take home for later. Our laws should encourage the growth of small businesses and new industries, and I’m proud to help make this change,” said Representative Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), whose district in Woonsocket is home to Ravenous Brewing Company.

Said Senator Sosnowski, whose district includes the Sons of Liberty Spirts Company, whose whiskey has won national awards, as well as Whaler’s Brewing Company and Proclamation Brewing Company, “We are always looking for ways to encourage our homegrown small businesses, and this is an area where we have a number of really exciting up-and-coming businesses that would have much better opportunities to grow if we just bring our laws in line with those of neighboring states. 

Allowing these purchases also opens up a whole new area of tourism for our state, one that no doubt will economically benefit not only those businesses, but nearby restaurants, hotels, other businesses and the state itself. This is a very positive move that will help businesses as well as giving visitors another reason to come enjoy themselves in Rhode Island.”

Although wineries in Rhode Island are allowed to offer samples and retail sales of their products, under current law, distilleries and breweries are banned entirely from selling their products at retail at their plants.

The legislation (2016-H 8100B, 2016-S 3053A) allows breweries and distillers to sell up to 288 ounces of malt beverages and 750 mL of spirits 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 36 ounces of malt beverages or 4.5 ounces of distilled spirits 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 sample a variety of products and 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.

Both legislators worked closely with the manufacturers in their districts to craft the legislation.
Dorian Rave, the owner of Ravenous Brewing Company in Woonsocket, 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.”
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.”

The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Rep. Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), Sen. Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

Representative Morin added that he wished to thank and commend Rep. Joseph Solomon (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) for his work on an earlier bill that closely mirrors the one passed yesterday.