A bill that is receiving a lot of interest across the state and media is LB632, an omnibus bill that handles many liquor control issues. I have been contacted by several constituents and people from all over Nebraska who are concerned with this proposed legislation. The craft beer brewers did an outstanding job of raising awareness at the grassroots level by encouraging their consumers to contact state senators. Since I have received my fair share of emails and calls, I want to address the issue in this column.
For a little history, I was a member of the General Affairs Committee last year when we passed LB1105. That bill contained language that allows for craft brewers to operate up to five retail locations in addition to where they brew beer. Several breweries have built or have plans to build these retail locations in cities where they are not located. This year’s LB632 strips out the language that allows for these additional retail locations. Both bills have the same sponsor, so it is puzzling to me why he introduced a bill this year that undoes what he wanted the legislature to pass last year, especially since it was overwhelmingly passed and hailed by the craft brewers.
I am not sure the reasoning behind this bill other than big, out of state breweries are trying to stifle growth of these small, locally owned breweries. That it is not something I can support. I do not support the bill as it is currently written for several reasons. LB632 would harm economic growth and kill jobs, which is a terrible thing to do when the state is facing a budget shortfall. Zipline Brewing Company based in Lincoln currently is constructing their second non brewery retail location in downtown Omaha that will employ about 25 full and part time employees. That is in addition to construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and others involved in the construction of the building. LB632 would prevent a brewery like Kinkaider or Infusion from building a retail location in a city like York or Stromsburg. LB632 could also give pause to any home brewer thinking about starting their own brewery. It does not make sense to make things more difficult for entrepreneurship for anyone trying to grow a business, not just brewers.
This past week, I met with the owners of Bottle Rocket Brewing, a privately owned and operated brewery located in Seward. We discussed LB632 and concerns that they have regarding the bill. It was a fun visit and they recorded it for social media. You can view our visit on the Bottle Rocket YouTube channel or on their Facebook page.
After speaking with a few of my colleagues on the General Affairs Committee, it does not appear that this bill will advance out of committee in its current form. I hear an amendment is being drafted to reinsert the language that allows for the retail locations, which has been the objective of the craft breweries. I commend them for their interest in the legislative process and for getting involved with a piece of legislation that will impact them.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. David and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.