ctnewsjunkie file photo
Senate chamber (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — A bill that makes changes to Connecticut’s liquor laws and expands what Connecticut breweries, wineries, cideries, and distilleries can sell passed the Senate Thursday by a 35-1 vote.

The bill now goes to the House.

CLICK TO VOTE ON SB 647: An Act Streamlining The Liquor Control Act

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The bill significantly increases the amount of beer consumers can buy directly from Connecticut craft breweries, allows craft breweries to manufacture wine, cider, and distilled spirits, gives wineries, cideries, and distilleries the ability to sell Connecticut craft beer, and includes updates to the permitting structure.

Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said those in the liquor business should “not have to keep coming back to the legislature for incremental changes” while competing against states much friendlier to the liquor industry.

Miner ticked off states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, and other southern states as those without the regulatory challenges that Connecticut enforces.

“This bill represents the most significant updates to craft beer and alcohol laws since the Prohibition era,” Phil Pappas, executive director of the Connecticut Brewers Guild, said.

“Connecticut’s local, independent, job-creating craft beer industry is booming, resulting in a nearly $750 million economic impact annually and more than 4,600 part-time and full-time jobs statewide,” Pappas continued. “I’m hopeful that Connecticut’s House of Representatives will also vote in favor of this bill and that Governor Lamont will sign it into law.”

Among other things the bill allows a manufacturer permittee for spirits who produces less than 25,000 gallons a year to sell up to three liters of spirits per day. Current law allows a manufacturer permittee to sell up to 1.5 liters of alcoholic liquor per day.

The bill allows a spirits manufacturer to offer free samples of spirits distilled on the premises in combination with non-alcoholic beverages as part of the free samples.

The bill also consolidates a variety of duplicative beer manufacturer permits into one.

Under the bill, the consolidated beer permit allows retail beer sales for on-premises consumption, with or without selling food. It also allows for off-premises consumption of up to nine gallons per person, per day. Current law limits all such manufacturer beer sales to nine liters per person, per day.

The bill creates a new manufacturer permit for wine, cider, and mead and eliminates the current cider, apple brandy and eau-de-vie, and farm winery manufacturing permits. It allows the new permittee to manufacture those products in addition to also making mead.

The additional permits allow the wine, cider, and mead permittees to, among other things: sell and offer free samples at up to seven events or functions off the permit premises, commercially transport any alcoholic liquor as permitted by law, participate in a wine festival that is organized and sponsored by an association that promotes manufacturing or selling wine, sell their product at up to 10 farmers’ market locations per year under certain conditions.