Testimony from:
Marc Hyden, Director, State Government Affairs, R Street Institute

In SUPPORT of SB 420, “Alcoholic Beverages; manufacturers of malt beverages to sell or donate malt beverages they produce, subject to certain limitations or conditions”

February 15, 2022

Senate Regulated Industries Committee

Chairman and members of the committee,

My name is Marc Hyden. I am a Georgia resident and the director of state government affairs for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government in many areas, including alcohol regulation reform. This is why SB 420 is of special interest to us.

Despite the vast passage of time from Prohibition’s repeal to the modern era, Georgia still retains burdensome and outdated laws regulating the state’s alcohol industry. Thankfully, over the past decade, the legislature has made efforts to modernize portions of the regulatory framework, including those related to Georgia’s craft beer, wine and distillery industries.

As these industries have expanded, lawmakers have reformed some regulations—providing Georgia breweries limited freedom to sell small quantities of their products directly to consumers for off-premises consumption. Even so, the amount of beer that a brewery can sell directly to consumers for off-premises is arbitrary, incredibly low and bad for small business.

Currently, no person can purchase more than 288 ounces of beer per day for off-premises consumption from one of Georgia’s breweries. [1] This equates to 24 12-ounce bottles—essentially a case of beer. This is an incredibly strict limitation that makes Georgia an outlier among its peers. Alabama, which has historically perpetuated incredibly strict alcohol laws, permits three times this level. [2] Meanwhile, other states, like North Carolina, have no statutory limit on daily sales whatsoever. [3]

As has been the case in other states, there are good reasons to eliminate the daily limit for breweries, as Sen. Chuck Hufstetler has proposed in his bipartisan bill. To many, 288 ounces may seem like a significant amount of beer, but it is not if you only purchase beer a few times a year or are buying it for a special event or a gathering of some form. Moreover, why the legislature specifically settled on an arbitrary 288-ounce limit, instead of any other number, is unclear. In fact, no one seems to be able to provide a reasoned answer for the 288-ounce threshold, but it is damaging to beer makers.

The truth of the matter is that a number of Peach State breweries are small operations that are desperately striving to stay in business, and statutes that cap their sales, like the 288-ounce limit, inhibit their ability to turn a meaningful profit. This might, in part, explain why Georgia has one of the nation’s lowest number of breweries per capita. [4] Repealing the daily limit would provide a small—but impactful—privilege to fledgling breweries that would otherwise struggle to find cost-efficient ways of selling their products.

As a free market think tank, we believe that if breweries do not want to sell more than one case of beer per patron each day, then that should be their choice, but the state should not mandate that practice to the disadvantage of small business. Rather, Georgians should want small businesses like breweries to flourish across Georgia. Sen. Hufstetler’s bill would work toward this goal without greatly impacting wholesalers’ bottom lines, given that on-site brewery sales for off-premises consumption represents a relatively small market share. [5]

Georgia lawmakers should continue to embrace limited government and freer markets, and remove harmful impediments to business, like this cap on sales. They should empower consumers and breweries to determine how much they want to buy and sell, rather than relying on arbitrary edicts to the detriment of small companies. That is why it is critical for the legislature to approve SB 420.

Thank you,

Marc Hyden
Director, State Government Affairs
R Street Institute
(404) 918-2731
[email protected]

[1] Title 3, O.C.G.A § 3-5-24.1, Justia US Law, 2020. https://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2020/title-3/chapter-5/article-2/section-3-5-24-1.

[2] “On Aug. 1, breweries can triple and distilleries can double daily caps for off-premise sales,” Alabama Retail Association, May 17, 2021. https://alabamaretail.org/news/alcohol-bills-2021.

[3] Mike Conley, “New state law loosens brewery restrictions,” The McDowell News, Nov. 12, 2019. https://mcdowellnews.com/news/new-state-law-loosens-brewery-restrictions/article_b88fde48-b946-11e9-9666-57f1fdf9601f.html.

[4] “The State of Craft Beer,” C+R Research, last accessed Feb. 13, 2022. https://www.crresearch.com/blog/state-craft-beer.

[5] “National Beer Sales & Production Data,” Brewers Association, last accessed Feb. 13, 2022. https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics-and-data/national-beer-stats.

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