State policy propsoal threatens tap rooms, concerns craft brewers

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Amherst, Wis. (WBAY)- Popular tap rooms inside craft breweries might be in danger soon if state lawmakers approve a proposal aiming to prevent craft brewers from selling their own product.

On weekends, this tap room at Central Waters Brewing Company in Amherst is practically a tourist destination drawing big crowds, but that could change, under a proposed state policy the owner here says might not even get a public hearing.

Anello Mollica, owner of the Central Waters Brewing Company said,"If there's a bill that wants to get passed by any entity that drastically changes things to this level it shouldn't go into a motion 999 in the budget bill that doesn't have an author, that doesn't have any public debate."

Right now the state has a three tier system, comprised of companies that produce, distribute, and sell, items like beer. There's no cross ownership allowed, but small craft brewers can operate tap rooms.

This proposal would ban that practice, and force the brewers to buy their own product back from a distributor.

"There are some things in that proposal that we've seen that could be interpreted in such a way that it will prevent us from being able to sell beer directly to customers from our brewery. It could mean no more tap rooms," said Mollica.

Who's actually behind the policy push, isn't entirely clear-- especially since attaching it to the state budget doesn't require any state lawmaker to sponsor it.

Rep. Dave Murphy, a Town of Greenville Republican says, that's just wrong.

"You know the free market is something I am so strongly supportive of and whenever we do things that harm the free markets system, we're always making a mistake," said Murphy.

State lawmakers have until the end of this week to pass a new budget-- but so far---Republicans who control both the Assembly and Senate have not scheduled a vote.