Non-Georgia breweries are more than twice as profitable as Georgia breweries, thanks to state law.
If the law isn’t changed, in 2017, Georgia could be the last remaining state where breweries can’t sell beer directly to customers. In a state that’s been praised for its business-friendly environment, this onerous and nonsensical regulation is frustrating for small businesses in the craft brewing industry, especially given the better laws in place in surrounding states. According to the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild, breweries in other states are 2.5 times more profitable than those in Georgia, on average.
In 2016, small brewers and distillers began a push for changes to the state alcohol sales rule, but later abandoned the measure in a deal struck with the Revenue Department. Previously, the passage of Senate Bill 63 allowed brewers to charge for tours of their facilities and offer beer as a “free souvenir.” However, the Revenue Department later released a “rule clarification” stating that brewers could not price different levels of tours according to the value of the beer being given away. Under the new deal, brewers can sell different levels of brewery tours with prices based on the type of beer offered, breweries and distilleries can hold special events, food can be sold on premises, and breweries and distilleries can advertise where to find their products for purchase.
Still, however, these businesses can only sell beer directly to distributors. The holdup, in part, is supposedly an issue of collecting taxes, but breweries aren’t buying that.
Brey Sloan, owner of Riverwatch Brewery in Augusta, told WRDW 12 that if she could sell beer onsite, she could grow her business much faster: “You make more profit more quickly, you expand more quickly, you can hire people more quickly, thus you would pay more taxes more quickly.”
The Georgia Craft Brewers Guild has a petition to change the current laws, but it remains to be seen whether the Legislature will pursue this issue.