Utah craft brewers seek lobbyist, push for beer law changes
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s craft brewers are looking to hire someone to lead their guild and help lobby regulators and legislators as the state officials are expected to consider allowing beer with higher alcohol content to be sold in grocery stores.
The Utah Brewers Guild, which represents more than a dozen small breweries in the state, posted for a part-time executive director earlier this week. The brewers plan for this person to look after their interests that often differ from those of the large brewers and retailers who lobby the state, The Salt Lake Tribune reported .
The move comes as Utah is one of the last states to require grocery and convenience stores to sell beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas have recently passed laws that will allow the sale of stronger beer in grocery stores, which leaves just Utah and Minnesota with the light beer requirement. Utah also sets the 3.2 percent requirement for beer on tap at bars and restaurants.
Utah requires that anything higher than 3.2 percent must be sold at state-owned liquor stores. State statistics show that these liquor stores sell only about 6 percent of all the beer in the state. The vast majority is sold annually in grocery and convenience stores.
The brewers in the state want to see the 3.2 percent requirement on stores, bars and restaurants change, so beer of any strength is permissible.
Beer wholesalers and retailers are looking for a slight increase from 3.2 percent to 4.8 percent.
Peter Erickson, a spokesman for the guild, said local brewers experience an ongoing struggle to explain their interests to state lawmakers, many of whom are Mormon and avoid alcohol for religious reasons.
He said that these lawmakers don’t fully understand the industry, which employs about 3,000 people and has a $416 million impact on the state’s economy.
“It’s important for the local voices to be heard first,” Erickson said.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com