Bill prohibiting breweries from selling their own products faces backlash

Bill prohibiting breweries from selling their own products faces backlash


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island breweries are pushing back against legislation that would prevent them from distributing their own products.


The R.I. Senate recently approved the legislation, which would prohibit manufacturers of alcoholic beverages from holding a distribution license.

R.I. Brewers Guild President Nils Weldy told 12 News breweries shouldn’t be restricted from selling their own products.

“Essentially, you’re handing over your brand and your product lineup to a third party to market and distribute and sell,” Weldy explained.

The R.I. House Committee on Small Business heard testimony earlier this year for and against the legislation, with some arguing that it would disrupt the traditional three-tier system.

“The three-tier system — manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer — we all believe that’s the way to go. It came about during prohibition,” Teamsters Local 251 Legislative Director Paul MacDonald said. “Manufacturers being able to distribute is bad for jobs.”

Rhode Island Liquors Operators Collaborative Director Nicholas Fede Jr. explained that the three-tier system is designed “to ensure product is authentic and not counterfeit.”

“When people own different tiers of the three-tier system, there’s price fixing going on,” he added.

But Weldy said the legislation could have a negative impact on small businesses and access of Rhode Island craft beer at restaurants and liquor stores.

“Perhaps they’re just selling out of their taproom, but they gain further exposure,” he said. “It means that jobs will be lost. There are six breweries presently in Rhode Island that operate in this manner. Should this come to fruition, those are jobs that are immediately getting cut.”

It’s unlikely that this proposal will be voted on in the R.I. House this legislation session since it has been held for further study. However, lawmakers can introduce it again next legislative session for consideration.