Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force Convenes for First Time – Brewbound.com

A Massachusetts state task force dealing with examining the state’s decades-old liquor laws met on Thursday — and beer distribution was on the agenda.

Most prominent for brewers was the issue of franchise law reform, which has been fought in the Massachusetts Legislature for years. Brewers have lobbied behind several pieces of legislation in the past, and they are pursuing two reform bills this session that would alter the strict franchise laws that govern relationships between beer manufacturers and wholesalers.

Those laws have been increasingly under a microscope in the state, particularly as regulators have taken action over instances of abuse, the most recent of which involved a case in which one wholly-owned Anheuser-Busch distributor in the state was accused of participating in illegal “pay-to-play” activities designed to increase their sales and limit competition.

It’s made the tensions clear, noted members of the the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, a non-profit organization that works to promote and protect the interests of the state’s craft brewers. For the guild, reform needs to focus on three areas: franchise laws, licensing and pay-to-play.

“Honestly, I’d really love to work with a distributor,” Lamplighter Brewing co-founder AC Jones told the task force. “It’d make my life much, much easier. … But I can’t do that because I just don’t trust that I’m not going to be damaged by that relationship over the long term.”

For his company to continue to grow, Jones said he would eventually have to sign with a wholesaler, which he refuses to do because he contends he’ll lose power and control of the brewery’s operations.

Brewers are pushing for a ramped-up set of sanctions to help rein in wholesaler abuses.

Although laws aimed at curtailing illegal inducement already exist, Lord Hobo Brewing owner Daniel Lanigan claimed that lax enforcement and vague

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