HARTFORD, CT — Joe Ploof, chief revenue officer and founder of Hanging Hills Brewing Company, said if the legislation proposed by Rep. Brandon McGee and Sen. Doug McCrory passes, he will have to lay off five of his six employees.
That’s because the two separate bills would force him to choose between closing his tap room or ending distribution of his craft brews.
“If we end distribution then it means the consumer has to come to me,” Ploof said.
He said he did $1.1 million in sales last year, including $400,000 at his Ledyard Street tap room.
“I don’t understand the animosity toward an industry that brought in $718 million in tourist revenue,” Ploof said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The House bill, which was proposed by McGee, was filed a day after he announced his run for mayor of Hartford.
Outside the House chamber Wednesday McGee said he proposed the bill because one of his constituents, who owns a package store, had seen a drop in beer sales.
“My intent was not to hurt any of our breweries,” McGee said.
He said he’s spent the day speaking with owners of some of Connecticut’s 80 craft breweries and effectively killed his own legislation.
“I didn’t realize so many people were so passionate about beer,” McGee said.
Based on those conversations, McGee said he has taken steps to make sure the bill is not raised for a public hearing by the General Law Committee.
“The bill from my end has died and will die,” McGee said.
However, McCrory is not backing down from a fight. He said his bill is very much alive.
“This was never what we intended when we created the industry in 2005,” McCrory said.
He said there’s a Florida company, Engine 15, that wants to come in and build a 4,200-square-foot, 30-tap brewpub and waterfront “biergarten” on the Housatonic River in Milford.
Sen. James Maroney and Rep. Kim Rose of Milford are thrilled about Engine 15 opening Dockside Brewery.
“This is great news, and a rare occurrence where a Florida based company wants to expand and grow jobs in Connecticut, instead of the other way around. We look forward to continuing to work with all of our General Assembly colleagues to create jobs in Milford and across Connecticut,” the Milford lawmakers said in a statement. “We also invite Senator McCrory — and anyone else who is interested — to come share a pint with us at Dockside Brewery when it opens later this year.”
It’s still unclear why McCrory, a Hartford lawmaker, is concerned about a new business in Milford.
However, without knowing McCrory’s motivations for the legislation, Ploof speculated that it might have something to do with the big beer distributors.
He said the large beer distributors in Connecticut won’t distribute the beers from craft breweries because their big clients are the large beer companies like Anheuser-Busch and Heineken.
“The large scale distributors for big light lagers are feeling the pressure,” Ploof said.
It’s because consumers no longer want what they are selling, and that change in market preference is something, according to Ploof, that can’t be legislated.
Ploof distributes his own beer in the Hartford area and he is distributed by G&G Beverage and the Craft Beer Guild Distributing.
“I love my distribution partners,” Ploof said.
Ploof said if McCrory gets his way then he will no longer be able to sell his beer at the Hartford Yard Goats stadium where people often wait in a 45-minute line to buy his beer.
He said the legislation is about a selfish group of distributors who made a little less money last year because no one wants what they are selling.
“It’s just madness,” Ploof said.