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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 12, 2014 03:29 PM
From: Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Beer Franchise Reform
In the near future I plan to re-introduce legislation, SB 1088, to amend the Liquor Code. My legislation would strengthen the three-tier beer distribution system while allowing protections for malt and brewed beverage manufacturers and wholesalers.

In May of 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Granholm v. Heald that states cannot treat in-state wineries different than out-of-state wineries in regards to distribution and regulation of wine. This means, that states must amend their liquor laws in order to provide for the equal treatment of in-state alcohol manufacturers and out-of-state alcohol manufactures.

Under the current Liquor Code, in-state malt and brewed beverage manufacturers are treated differently from out-of-state manufacturers in many ways. One major difference is that in-state manufactures are permitted to distribute their product outside of the three-tier distribution system. This is one example of a major difference which must be remedied as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Granholm.

Thus, I will introduce legislation that protects the Commonwealth’s three-tier system by amending the Liquor Code to do the following:
  • Eliminate all distinctions between in-state brewers and out-of-state brewers, so that all rules apply equally to all United States brewers;
  • Allow all manufacturers to self-distribute up to 75,000 barrels of product in Pennsylvania. This 75,000 barrel mark is consistent with the Federal definition of small brewery in the Tax Code.

In addition, my legislation will allow manufacturers to terminate their contract with a malt and brewed beverage wholesaler so long as the manufacturer represents less than 20% of the volume of the wholesaler’s house; and, so long as the wholesaler receives the fair market value for the brand.

Currently, malt and brewed beverage manufacturers enter into contracts with a wholesaler for the life of the product. These life-long agreements don’t take into account changes in the industry or changes to a particular brand. This is why my legislation seeks to require re-negotiation of these contracts in good faith every five years. This will allow both the manufacturers and the wholesalers to adapt their business relationship to an ever-growing and changing industry.

My legislation will grant malt and brewed beverage manufacturers the right to consent to any wholesaler to wholesaler transaction so long as the manufacturer does not unnecessarily withhold consent to such a transaction. When these transactions occur between wholesalers, my legislation will allow the manufacturers to be paid 10% of the transaction equal to brand rights.

Finally, this legislation will allow wholesalers to sell their interests in their businesses to family members for estate planning purposes. It will also loosen the Pennsylvania residency requirements; and, removes requirements that wholesaler territories must be contiguous. These are all provisions that will allow the wholesalers to continue to grow a successful business model.

Introduced as SB637