Beer bill clears Kentucky Senate committee - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Beer bill clears Kentucky Senate committee

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The “beer bill” championed by Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo and the state's craft brewers advanced on Tuesday with a favorable vote from a Senate committee.

HB 168, which passed the House last month, would prevent big beer producers like Budweiser-maker Anheuser-Busch from owning distributorships – the middle-man businesses that are required under the state's “three tier” system.

It would essentially force Anheuser-Busch to divest itself of a Louisville distributorship it has owned for decades and an Owensboro distributorship it recently acquired.

Several senators on the Licensing, Occupations & Administrative committee said they were conflicted about the bill.

Sen. Paul Hornback, a Shelbyville Republican, voted to keep the bill moving but said he reserved the right to change his mind if the bill comes to the Senate floor. A farmer, Hornback said he's seen the dangers of “vertical integration” in agriculture.

Yet, “For a company that has been here 37 years and operated and not caused a problem, it's hard to take that away from them,” Hornback said, referring to Anheuser-Busch's Louisville distributorship.

Under state law, beer makers cannot sell their products directly to bars and retailers – they must go through a distributor.

Craft beer brewers fear it'd be harder to get their beers on the shelves if distributorships are bought up by big competitors.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican, said he voted for the bill to reinforce the three-tier system that keeps retailers, distributors and producers separate.

“The truth is, the alcohol business is not a free enterprise; it is a heavily regulated enterprise and it is done so for a reason...A vertical monopoly ultimately will lead to a lack of choice for consumers,” Thayer said.

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