Battle brewing between small and large beer distributors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - It's a battle brewing within the beer industry, and it's making its way to the state legislature. A bill filed by House Speaker Greg Stumbo would affect how beer is distributed in the state.

House Bill 168 would prohibit those who have a brewer's or out-of-state malt beverage license from also having a distributor's license, much like the state's system for spirits and wine.

Speaker Stumbo says the bill would protect local craft brewers and local distributors.

"We got into the business because we're passionate about beer and making beer. We don't want to be a shipping company. We don't want to be a distributor," explained Country Boy Brewing co-owner Daniel Harrison.

Country Boy Brewing supports House Bill 168. Anheuser-Busch Louisville doesn't. Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer, has owned a distributor in Louisville for close to 40 years.

Anheuser-Busch Louisville's Director of Sales and Marketing, Damon Williams, released this statement to WKYT Monday.

“Anheuser-Busch opposes this legislation because it represents unnecessary government intervention in the free market and places restrictions on competition in the distribution tier. Even more troubling is the negative impact this bill would have on the outside investment that Kentucky needs to grow its economy and create jobs.

We believe any bill that would attempt to strip Anheuser-Busch of its long held ownership interests in Louisville or Owensboro is both unnecessary and unconstitutional. We will take any and all steps available to us to protect our nearly 200 Kentucky employees and our brand. Anheuser- Busch has operated legally and as a good corporate citizen in Kentucky for nearly forty years. This bill is nothing more than the work of political donors who are seeking special legislative treatment and attempting to use the government to take our property for the purpose of redistributing it to someone else.

Kentucky’s beer distribution system has worked well for decades and doesn’t need fixing. It provides balance between all stakeholders – brewers, distributors and retailers – and allows brewers to have a reasonable say in how their brands get to market.

We are optimistic the legislature will do the right thing given that they raised significant concerns about eminent domain during last year’s legislative session. It is hard for us to conceive that they would come back this year and decide it is a fine idea to attempt to confiscate the property of a company that has been a good corporate citizen, providing nearly 200 well-paying Kentucky jobs. We don’t think it is good economic development policy to treat companies who have invested in Kentucky’s working families for nearly forty years in this manner.”

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