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County Elected Officials Throughout State Endorse Reform on Tap Act

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 22, 2018) - More than 90 county executives, councilmembers and commissioners from across Maryland have signed a letter that will be sent tomorrow to members of the General Assembly urging them to support House Bill 518 — The Reform on Tap Act of 2018.

The legislation would overhaul the antiquated laws and burdensome regulations governing the state’s craft breweries, chiefly by removing limits on beer production, taproom sales, letting local jurisdictions establish taproom operating hours, eliminating franchise law requirements and removing restrictions on contract brewing by upstart breweries.

“County leaders see firsthand how craft breweries enliven downtrodden neighborhoods, create high-paying jobs, pump money into local economies, attract younger residents, boost tourism and give back to community groups,” said Comptroller Franchot, whose Field Enforcement Division regulates breweries, wineries and distilleries. “They recognize that if we fail to bring our laws into the 21st century, we risk losing these small businesses to states with more welcoming regulations.”

The signatories to the letter include every county commissioner or councilmember in the following counties: Baltimore, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Garrett, Harford, Montgomery, Somerset, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester counties. The legislative bodies in a number of other jurisdictions had a majority of members sign the letter to lawmakers, which emphasizes how craft breweries deliver economic and cultural benefits that extend well beyond the taproom.

“Harford County has an emerging farm and craft brewing industry that supports our local tourism and small business development efforts,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. “The Reform on Tap Act will protect local investments and allow for additional growth.”

Baltimore City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed pointed to how breweries in the city, including Oliver Brewing Company, which is located in her East Baltimore district, become centerpieces in the community that do much more than produce and serve beer.

“Many work with their neighbors to hold family-friendly events and raise funds for the community,” she said, adding that Oliver has even hosted home buying workshops. “The Reform on Tap Act will help the locally owned and operated craft beer industry by rolling back onerous restrictions and make it easier to compete with large-scale brewers.”

Montgomery County Council President Hans Reimer pointed to the unique attributes and diverse locations of the county’s current breweries, but noted there is room for growth.

“Local breweries have a big impact on Montgomery County’s economy. Not only have they created good middle-income jobs, they have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville,” he said. “But there is much more to be done to make our state truly supportive to the industry. Our goal should be for Maryland beer to gain a much larger share of the market, both in Maryland and across the country. The Reform on Tap proposals accomplish that objective.”

Just up the road, Frederick has embraced being home to the largest concentration of craft breweries in the state, said Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater.

“Our local breweries have become an integral part of the fabric of Frederick County,” she said. “They not only strengthen our economy by adding jobs, but also add to our ‘hip yet historic’ reputation thus increasing tourism. HB 518 will ensure that state law supports these small businesses that are so important to the vitality of our county.”

All seven Baltimore County councilmembers also signed on to the letter urging legislative passage of HB 518.

“I’m proud to support small business and brewers such as Heavy Seas in Lansdowne, which now employs more than 50 people in my community and is bringing economic vitality to southwest Baltimore County,” said Councilman Tom Quirk, whose district also includes the new Guinness brewery. “We need to foster free markets and loosen regulations to help grow businesses such as Heavy Seas. That’s why I’m proud to support House Bill 518 — the Reform on Tap Act of 2018.”

The Reform on Tap Act will be heard before the House Economic Matters Committee on Friday, February 23. The public is invited to deliver testimony.

The legislation reflects the findings of the Comptroller’s Reform on Tap Task Force, which held eight meetings this past summer and fall to get a better grasp of the state’s current laws and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for craft brewers. The 40-member task force represented every region in the state and industry stakeholders including brewers, distributors, retailers, consumers and lawmakers from both parties.

An economic impact study conducted by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates found that in Maryland, the craft beer industry had an overall economic impact of $802.7 million and supported or created 6,541 jobs in 2016. The industry contributed nearly $110 million in local, state and federal revenues, which directly supports investments in education, public safety, transportation and the environment.

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Joseph Shapiro —
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