House OKs legislation to allow limited retail sales by breweries
Bill is designed to help small businesses, promote ‘beer tourism’ industry in Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE – Legislation sponsored by Rep. Michael A. Morin 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.
Representative Morin introduced the bill 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.
“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 overall, since there are enough small breweries in each area of the state for craft beer enthusiasts to make a day of it, visiting breweries, 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).
The legislation (2016-H 8100Aaa) 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.
Representative Morin worked with local brewers to develop the legislation, including Dorian Rave, the owner of Ravenous Brewing Company on Cumberland Hill Road 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.”
Brewers who testified in favor of the bill said they believe it will not hurt beer retailers by competing with them for sales, but will rather help both retailers and brewers by whetting the public’s thirst for more craft beer.
“The more beer I can sell, the more beer I can make, which can go to [retailers],” said Josh Karten, co-owner of Proclamation Ale Company in South Kingstown. “It’s not going to take any business away from them. It will make more.”
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. It 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).
In photo: Representatives Michael A. Morin, left, and Steve Casey, right, welcome Dorian Rave of Ravenous Brewing Company in Woonsocket to the State House on May 19. Rave was attending session to watch the House passage of Representative Morin’s legislation to assist microbrewing companies.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903