HARTFORD, CT — A bill that proponents say will help spur continued growth for Connecticut’s wine, beer, mead, cider, liquor, and wine makers easily passed the House Saturday, by a bipartisan 140-to-5 vote.
The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support on Thursday and now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk.
The bill makes changes to Connecticut’s liquor laws and expands what Connecticut breweries, wineries, cider makers, and distilleries can sell. Those in the industry said they were working under decades-old, overly restrictive laws that haven’t kept up with the growing craft beer, farm wine, pr other liquor industries in the state.
“This bill drags the industry into the 21st century,” said Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden, who is co-chair of the General Law committee, where the bill originated.
D’Agostino called the bill “pro business” legislation, stating the bill will bring an additional $750,000 in revenue to the state just from the existing businesses in operation.
Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, brought laughter to the House chamber when he said: “I have two words to say (about the bill) and that would be ‘Two Roads’,’’ referring to one of the most popular breweries in the state that operates out of Gresko’s district.
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, cider makers, and distilleries the ability to sell Connecticut craft beer, and includes updates to the permitting structure.
“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.”
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 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 a 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, and sell their product at up to 10 farmers’ market locations per year under certain conditions.