Louisiana has a long and storied history when it comes to its alcohol. The state that gave Bourbon its name and claims to have invented the cocktail has been a Mecca for those looking to enjoy its potent potables.
But today, thanks to outdated laws on craft breweries, Louisiana is in danger of becoming stuck in the past.
Nationally, craft beer sales increased by seven percent last year and account for nearly a quarter of the entire beer market. Not only is this a massive increase from just over a decade ago, but these numbers are more impressive when you consider that overall beer consumption is dropping.
Louisiana has failed to capitalize on the craft brewing revolution that has proven so lucrative for other states. The Pelican state only has 37 craft breweries and ranks a disappointing 48th in breweries-per-capita. This means millions of dollars in economic impact lost, and hundreds if not thousands of jobs left on the table.
The cause of these low rankings is clear. Louisiana laws regarding craft breweries are incredibly restrictive. For example, microbreweries are currently only able to brew 12,500 barrels of beer per year. This cap not only places a lid on growth but is much smaller than many other states.
North Carolina, which recently passed laws liberalizing the craft brewery industry, has no limit on the number of barrels a brewery can produce. It’s no surprise the state ranks 17th in breweries-per-capita, while producing the 7th largest amount of craft beer in the country. All of this equates to more than $2 billion in economic impact from the craft beer industry for the Tar Heel State while The Pelican State has just more than $700 million.
But, barrel limits aren’t the only regulation stifling the craft beer industry in Louisiana. There are numerous other regulations, which prevent the industry from living up to its full potential.
For example, current law is unclear on whether breweries cannot hold private events where they serve alcoholic beverages outside of what is produced by the brewery, due to a recent advisory opinion of the Alcohol and Tobacco control commissioner. This means that holding events like weddings, where wedding goers might want to enjoy wine, leaves breweries in a murky legal situation .
Representative Scott Simon (R-Abita Springs) is currently trying clarify the law with HB 246. The original bill would have allowed breweries to sell or serve items authorized by a caterer’s permit at events like weddings. This harmless bill would have provided another stream of revenue to these breweries allowing them to grow and create more jobs.
Yet, this seemingly uncontroversial bill has attracted the ire of the entrenched interests in the state, which see it as a threat to the status quo. As a result, the bill was amended to restrict breweries to 12 events a year, restricts outside beverages to wine, and requires that the lease be given to the commissioner 10 days ahead of any event.
These are the types of restrictions that stifle the growth of new industries and hurt consumers – all for the benefit of those with political power.
Of course, this type of behavior isn’t confined to the craft beer industry. We can see entrenched interests pushing back against a variety of new industries, whether its online retailers, ridesharing or short-term rentals. But, the pushback against the craft beer industry highlights the ongoing issues facing Louisiana.
Decision makers in the state will be forced with a choice. Do they continue to bow to the status quo, or will they allow new businesses to flourish and bring economic growth to the state?
When it comes to the craft beer industry, the craft beer drinkers hope Louisiana chooses the path to jobs and opportunity, because it will also have delicious results.