Local breweries worried bill could halt industry

Posted: 5:53 PM, Feb 02, 2017
Updated: 2017-02-02 18:53:31-05
A beer bill in Lincoln is creating a buzz across the Nebraska craft industry. 
A woman who runs a brewing company in La Vista is sounding the alarm about a measure, she says, stops the expansion of breweries.
The bill introduced by Senator Tyson Larson in January, LB-632, would prevent craft brewers from opening retail or taprooms off site from where they brew.
Those brewers say that would stop plans for expansion across the state. 
"A lot of concern from the craft brewers guild in particular about the amount of jobs this could kill, the tax base that's not going to happen, about the local growth in our community that is being impacted," said Kim Kavulak, general manager of Nebraska Brewing Company.
When Nebraska Brewing Company opened about 10 years ago there were a handful of microbreweries across Nebraska.
There are now more than 40 open or opening. 
"Nebraska has embraced the craft beer movement and we're making some really good beers,” Kavulak said. “Those breweries are all creating jobs in their local communities, creating local tax base and participating in local philanthropy." 
LB-632 would prevent breweries from opening retail or taprooms from outside where the beer is brewed.
Breweries that opened offsite restaurants or bars before Jan. 1, 2017, would be allowed to stay, but not expand. 
That could hurt micro brewing in Nebraska, Kavulak said.
"Our craft brewer's guild is mobilized to fight this effort,” Kavulak said. “We have meetings set up next week with members of the general affairs committee. We plan on testifying at the hearing with is scheduled for February 13th." 
Senator Larson’s office says the bill is based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prevents businesses in certain states from having special privileges than other states.
If the bill passes, it could level the playing field for companies, such as Anheuser-Busch or Miller-Coors that generally don't open bars and restaurants. 
Justin Nutter, Omaha, says he doesn't like government regulating businesses, regardless if they sell beer or not.
"I don't agree with it,” Nutter said. “They should be able to do what they want, expand just like restaurants and chain stores." 
Senator Larson’s office points out that craft breweries can still expand, they just have to brew where they sell their product.