Brewers push for farmer market space

Battle brewing over whether Illinois craft breweries can set up at farmers markets, special events

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

There’s a battle brewing between the established adult beverage industry and the much smaller, but quickly-growing, craft brew industry in Illinois.

Senate Bill 759 would allow 170 craft breweries to each apply for 12 special use permits per year to be able to set up at farmers markets, street festivals or special events.

Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois President Bob Myers said they support the craft beer industry as a growing industry, “However, we have certain lanes in the alcoholic beverage industry: there’s the manufacturing lane, the distributor lane and the retail lane.”

Myers said craft breweries should not be allowed to cross over the lanes to go straight to the customer.

Under Illinois’ strict Liquor Control Act, the state’s adult beverage industry is divided into three distinct tiers: producers of alcohol such as wineries and brewers; retailers such as grocery stores and bars; and distributors, which transport the alcohol from the producers to the retailers. In most cases, producers are not permitted to take their product directly to market or to retailers.

Illinois Licensed Beverage Association’s Sam Panayotovich said this latest bill could have an unintended consequence in cities like Springfield.

“What we see happening is that a truck can pull up right in front of a Maldaner’s [restaurant], in front of a D.H. Browns [tavern], and sell their product,” Panayotovich said.

Danielle D’Alessandro, executive director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, said the measure actually will help inform consumers about where they can purchase the unique brews.

“If someone goes to a farmers market on a Saturday afternoon and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is actually really good beer, I really enjoy this. Where are you located? Where do you sell your beer?’ That brewer can say, ‘Oh, actually, I’m in the Binny’s down the street,’ or ‘I’m at the Mariano’s around the way,’” she said.

“Looking down the road, this is beneficial to all three tiers,” D’Alessandro said.

Senate Bill 759 could be amended further before it hits the Senate floor later this month.

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