Georgia craft brewers push for regulatory reforms in 2024 session

(The Center Square) — The head of a Georgia association representing craft beer brewers in the state said recent closures of breweries might prompt state lawmakers to act during next year’s session.

“It continues to be a tough environment with the overall market and economy but also regulatory and legal environment in Georgia,” Joseph Cortes, executive director of the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, told The Center Square.

“It’s obviously reached an inflection point with brewery closures, and I think people see, overall, things that are going on in the economy, in the market,” Cortes added. “But also on the flip side, to focus on the positive, people know what an impact local craft breweries make on local development, on the attractiveness of a community, especially for young families and tourism.”

At least seven craft breweries have closed in Georgia, with many blaming overregulation. The landscape prompted the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild to launch a petition in October urging lawmakers to support fair and open market access, and at least 8,000 people have signed.

“The strongest tailwind we have is public support,” Cortes said.

Georgia senators debated but did not advance Senate Bill 163 earlier this year. The measure would have allowed “small brewers” to distribute up to 3,000 cases per year to retailers within a 100-mile radius without contracting with a distributor and also allow brewers and brewpubs to donate products for charitable events.

State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he thought the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries & Utilities would advance the measure during the upcoming session.

“We’ve got a bunch of small breweries, many are going out of business because of regulations in Georgia that don’t exist in places like North Carolina, which is not impacting any of the distributors; they’re still doing great, but it’s letting people get their product out to the market,” Hufstetler told The Center Square.

“These guys are not like many people down here asking for a tax credit or some sort of break,” Hufstetler added. “They just want free enterprise; they want to be able to sell their product, and Georgia needs to allow them to do that and catch up with the rest of the world. We’ve got regulations back from the Prohibition era that don’t make any sense at all anymore.”

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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