SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Illinois State Legislature has passed HB 2620, an omnibus bill containing provisions of the Brewers Economic & Equity Relief Act filed in February.
The Illinois Craft Brewers Guild — the nonprofit trade association representing Illinois craft breweries — made the announcement on Tuesday. The bill designed to help craft breweries modernize and recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is headed to Gov. Pritzker to be signed into law.
The legislation secures several new and expanded privileges for Illinois breweries and brewpubs, most of which classify as independently owned small businesses, according to the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.
HB 2620 creates a new license for Illinois craft beer producers – the Class 3 Brewer – which includes all privileges of a Brewpub license but adds self-distribution. Class 3 Brewers may produce up to 5,000 barrels annually and self-distribute up to 200 barrels with no geographic limitations.
“Brewpub self-distribution helps small producers quickly and easily get their product into local retailers, building brand recognition and loyalty in their communities. It was a centerpiece of the Guild’s legislation,” according to the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild.
The new law will also codify the ability for craft beer, wine or spirits makers who produce more than one type of product to self-distribute to the extent allowed by law were they only to produce one. Previously, a craft brewery that also operated a distillery would lose self-distribution privileges it qualified for under its craft brewers’ license.
“Our distributors are a vital part of our business model, and those relationships are important to us,” Katherine Valleau, co-owner of Exit Strategy Brewing in Forest Park. said. “But there is tremendous value for our brand to be able to brew a beer and drive it to a retail partner down the street. It’s good for our business, good for our customers and good for our community.”
Craft beer consumers will also notice some important changes after the bill is signed into law.
First, the law will allow breweries to offer permanent curbside pickup for customers, an option for patrons who prefer to observe social distancing. Second, Class 3 license holders will have access to a new ‘Beer Showcase Permit,’ allowing them to serve their beer in off-site venues such as farmers markets, street festivals and other events. Beer Showcase Permits may be pulled annually for up to 15 days per location or event. Currently, only Brewpub licensees can pull special use permits.
In its initial version, the BEER Act sought permanent craft beer delivery and direct-to-consumer shipping privileges for nearly 300 Illinois craft breweries.
“With the passing of this legislation, Illinois craft breweries are stronger, healthier and better able to recover from the devastating economic effects of the pandemic,” Danielle D’Alessandro, executive director for the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild said. “While we would have preferred to pass all provisions in the BEER Act, we are pleased at the legislative progress we’ve made in the past several years and look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of Illinois brewers. We are grateful to everyone who helped get this over the finish line.”
The original legislation filed as SB 532/HB 3495 was sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, President Pro Tempore and Rep. William Davis (30th). HB 2620 is part of an omnibus bill that reflects new regulations around cooperative purchasing and retail transfers advanced by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Federated Alliance of Illinois Independent Retailers.
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