The Thirsty Beagle: The gloves are off: Budweiser lashes out at Oklahoma lawmaker

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The gloves are off: Budweiser lashes out at Oklahoma lawmaker

I must say, it was a surprise this morning to wake up and see this:

That's a full-page ad on page 3 of today's Oklahoman, where Budweiser takes Oklahoma Sen. Clark Jolley to task over Senate Joint Resolution 68.

If you're not up to speed, SJR 68 is the key document to follow as far as Oklahoma's alcohol reform goes. It's the document that spells out the ballot question that could end up appearing in the November election.

And needless to say, Budweiser is not happy about it. Here is the key section:

1. There shall be prohibited any common ownership between the manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing tiers, unless otherwise permitted by this subsection. A brewery may, following adoption of this Article, maintain or obtain licenses to distribute beer to no more than two (2) territories within the state, also known as brewery-owned branches. However, the brewery must divest itself of all brewery-owned branches within five (5) years following adoption of this Article. Any brewery-owned branch in operation on the date of adoption of this Article may not expand its distribution territory beyond the distribution territory that was in effect on the date of adoption of this Article. No other member of one tier may own an interest in a business licensed in a different tier;

Anheuser-Busch's main goal has been to be able to distribute its own beer, and this measure says they have five years to continue doing so, before having to find someone else to do it for them.

I've skimmed the measure, and I think I've identified where it specifically addresses craft breweries and/or on-premise sales -- which of course is a key consideration for craft beer brewers.

It appears in Section 3 -- which talks about the "Retail Beer License" -- of the measure that anyone who held a license to sell low-point beer would be able to sell packaged beer. To me, it also reads that sale of beer for on-premise consumption would be allowed by a retail beer license holder, "provided that such sales of alcoholic beverages by the individual drink have been authorized by the voters in the specific county where the alcoholic beverages are sold, either prior to or after the enactment of this Article."

It's early in the morning, and I'm just reading the document for the first time, but it appears to me that brewers would be able to hold Retail Beer Licenses and then be able to sell packaged and by-the-glass beer at their breweries.

I'll try to follow up more on that point to be sure I'm understanding it correctly.

There's a meeting on this measure set for 11 a.m. today in Room 535 of the state Capitol. The Committee on Rules is set to take up at least 13 various bills and measure, with SJR 68 listed as No. 12 on the agenda.

Considering Budweiser's full-page ad, and that meeting today, we should be ready for several twists and turns in the upcoming days.


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