Dan Fagan: Louisiana Craft Beer Brewers vs. Distributors Is Like Fighting Goliath Without a Rock
You’ve probably heard the biblical story of David and Goliath. Goliath, a nine feet tall cocky Philistine, mocked and terrorized Israel for 40 days in an attempt to goad the nation into war. The Israelis lived in terror and refused to challenge the giant.
But along comes wet-behind-the-ears David, a simple shepherd boy and the youngest of 12 sons. David had no combat experience and unlike Goliath, was not a seasoned warrior. But the courageous David wasn’t easily intimidated. Armed with nothing more than a slingshot, he picked up a rock and struck Goliath in the center of his forehead killing him instantly.
If this story were set today in Louisiana, some powerful legislator, backed financially by Goliath, his lobbyists, and the trade group, “The Giant Industry Association,” would pass a law prohibiting the use of rocks in slingshots without a preapproved state license. Just in case someone got a permit, the law would also prohibit targeting giants.
Louisiana’s 34 craft brewers can relate to the David versus Goliath story. The Beer Industry League of Louisiana, representing the state’s major alcohol distributors, a Goliath if there ever was one, has made sure the state’s smaller craft brewers are left without a rock and a slingshot when competing with the big guys.
The lobbying group was able to kill legislation this session, sponsored by state Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs, allowing craft breweries to host private events and weddings serving catered alcohol at their facilities.
“This bill was a life raft to help the current operating breweries to stay in business. I hear every week from brewers that turned down another event because the client wanted to have a Champagne toast,” Cary Koch, executive director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild, told the website The Center Square.
“We think that’s a serious encroachment on the business,” said Renee Amar, vice president of government affairs at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, a New Orleans-based think tank promoting free-market principles.
The Beer Industry League of Louisiana plays a significant role in state politics. Seasoned Advocate reporter Tyler Bridges’ job covering politics requires he attend events hosted by the group.
“The Beer League’s longtime executive director, John Williams, has a friendly style and is well liked by legislators. He provides beer for their fundraisers, contributes money to their political campaigns and frequently hosts informal after hours gatherings at the Beer League’s office near the State Capitol,” Bridges writes.
What Williams and his organization are doing is working. The latest available numbers show Louisiana consumes, per capita, more beer than 35 other states. Yet Louisiana ranks 48th in craft breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Association.
“We think (craft beer) could be a flourishing industry that could provide jobs for our citizens if the lawmakers and regulators would back off the industry,” said Amar.
“We’re small businesses in our state, competing in a big beer world. We feel the effects by ranking 48th in the nation for breweries per capita and to make matters worse, we’re closing at double the national average for craft brewery closure rates,” Koch said.
Each time a craft brewery closes, it’s a victory for the big distributors.
“We’d like to see some real substantive change in the way our laws are written,” Koch said. “We are pushing for a more pro-business, free enterprise market that gives brewers a fighting chance.”
When the free-market determines success, competition forces a basic fundamental commitment to excellence. Those who work hard, are persistent, take risks, and employ wisdom, for the most part, succeed. When the free market, not bought-and-paid-for politicians, determines success, everyone has a shot. It’s not who you know, it’s how much you want it.
We hear a lot these days about inequality in America. Nothing levels the playing field more than the color-and-gender-blind invisible hand of the free market. Few things promote inequality more than government intervention motivated by a lust for power and influence.
Email Dan Fagan at email@example.com. Twitter: @DanFaganShow.
Editors Note: MUST READ.
This is what happens when the Government sets out to make things better for you. CCH’s Carol Rice was contacted years ago to give homebrewers better protection under state law. Sounded great. Then the distributors got involved. This is why breweries are not allowed to (officially) donate free beer to our club. A lot of Winterfest beer used to be commercial beers. (Any brewery that does not use a distributor is exempt. ie Gordon-Biersch) WYES had too many other restrictions that they could no longer have their “International Beer Tasting” fund raising event.