Monday, June 6, 2011

Legislation through the budget process burn WI Craft Brewers...AGAIN! Need everyone's help to Rescind!

Here's more on Wisconsin's craft brew distribution battle, from Bo Bélanger of South Shore Brewery.

This is all about Motion #414 as presented to the Joint Committee on Finance at their 5/31/2011 meeting for the 2011-2013 State of Wisconsin budget.

Let's put it this way. The legislation was drafted by the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Assn and Miller/Coors. Their intent, as clearly stated, was to prevent Anheuser-Busch ImBev from buying wholesale beer distributors in Wisconsin. However; ABI, whose executive, Dave Peacock, is quoted in a May 24, 2011 interview in Beer Marketer's Insight Express (Vol. 13 No 48) stating, they currently own only 12 wholesales Nationwide and have zero plans to acquire more. So what gives? This protectionist legislation, inserted into the state's budget, is simply a power grab and competition elimination by these two groups.

Hmmm... which begs, why doesn't Miller/Coors counter that with operating a distributorship themselves? Could it be there brands aren't as strong as AB's? Could it be they are not as financially positioned to do that and are calling for protectionist legislation? Why wouldn't we help out Miller Brewing Company, a Wisconsin icon in the brewing industry... ah, let's see no longer headquartered in WI, no longer WI owned, losing market share to their boogieman AB.

So okay, I'll be specific. The last line on page one of motion #414 states bluntly ' a wholesaler's permit may not be issued to a person who holds a brewers permit'. For gosh sakes that's how the South Shore Brewery and the majority of other WI craft breweries were born! We established the value of our brands. We continue to do that in new markets. That license to self distribute is a tangible asset to the value of a brewery. Now that is gone. They just devalued my business in favor of a foreign owned one. Let's put it another way. Breweries need distributors. Good ones. However, since 1994, the number of distributors has dropped from 94 to 41. Just in the past five years consumers in the Milwaukee area now have only two wholesalers. So that same number of folks now is representing nearly 14,000 brands! How would you feel about your chances of being adequately represented in that market would be? Craft brewers are a fraternity of hardworking WI tax payers, whose contribution to our local and state's economy is growing impressively. Too impressively for the WBDA and Miller/Coors people as they look to push the elimination not only of my owning a wholesalers license, but any also the provision that allows a brewery in be invested in a wholesaler. They don't want us hardworking, tax paying, local investing WI craft brewer's getting together and forming our own distributorships! Heck no they say. Here are the brands we offer, and damnit this is what you get. By the way the later provision is page 2, line number 1 of motion #414.

Could there be more? The dirty ooze just keeps coming out of this motion. Any one that knows the South Shore Brewery and how it's been supported by it's founding in the Railyard Pub and how it continues today, coexisting with the Deep Water Grille here in Ashland, WI also understands how that relationship is a pillar of our ability to showcase our beers to new consumers. Gone. No longer could we establish our business the way it started. Page 2, paragraphs 2 & 3 eliminate any chance of that happening by removing any relationships for a class "B" liquor license or retail license. Oh but wait, the motion convieniently has an exception for the wholesalers who now can sell beer to it's employees and have event's where it is consumed on their premises. So the producer can no longer have a theater for that but the wholesaler can? Yet another tangible asset of value my brewery used to have dismissed. I lose more value again!

Should I stop now? Come on one more Bo...please! So all of you thinking of putting a small brewery in your restaurant or tavern, denied! Page 3, 3rd paragraph, 'Specify that no person holding a Class"A" or Class "B" license or permit or a wholesaler's permit may register as a brewer". If the general public isn't aware of how hard it is operating a food & beverage establishment, let me confirm that the challenges are enormous. Finding a unique specialty to drive business is an ongoing enterprise. Well forget about making beer!

Please help the small craft brewers stand against this motion. It is out of committee and hits the legislative bodies where we need to sway several politicians on BOTH sides. The motion can be recinded in this part of the legislative process. One last thing. There are many posts and comments out there trying to ferret out what is the reality. I am the reality. I am a WI beer producer! This legislation has been authored behind closed doors, by groups unrelenting in their efforts to control market access and share. They are anti WI craft beer. They show their collective cowardess by introducing this motion in the budgetary process. Additionally, they finally revealed their plot, literally, five minutes before the motion was to be voted on. I'm pissed off. I'm not here to take political sides. I stand on my assessments of this motion and any politician that can't see it as a severe impedance to our industry isn't worth supporting.

Want to know where to take your concerns? We need every legislator, Democratic, Republican and Independent, the governor to hear the voices of support for WI craft brewers. Please at least send a message to your reps and if you feel the emotion like the rest of us give these folks a piece of your mind as well... This is the list of folks on the Finance Committee.

Take the time to read the comments on Bo's Facebook page.