Starting Friday, Sept. 1, Georgians won’t need to take a tour to sample alcohol at their favorite brewery. They’ll also be able to take some home with them.
The new law, SB 85, breaks the strict alcohol system put into place after Prohibition.
Attorney Charlie Suessmith explains why Georgia has so tightly regulated alcohol for nearly a century.
On what the strict alcohol system in Georgia is:
There are three tiers to the Georgia alcohol distribution system. There are the manufacturers, they're the brewers or the distillers, there are the distributors who distribute the alcohol and there are the retailers, the liquor stores, bars, things like that. Basically since Prohibition this system has been in place to where the interests of these different tiers have to be separated.
On the reasons the system was implemented:
Before Prohibition there were a bunch of what they were called were saloons. The manufacturers of the alcohol would basically own the saloons, which were the retailers. These saloons would offer things such as gambling or prostitution and basically just any means of getting consumers in the door to consume their alcohol.
It created a lot of issues for society such as over-consumption of alcohol. When the manufacturer’s and the retailer's interests were aligned they created some tax collection problems. There was no accountability, these saloons would kind of try to divert the tax system, that's where the three tiered system came into place.
On what this new law changes:
The new law will allow brewers and distillers to sell their product to consumers when they come to the brewery or distillery. Consumers can go to either these brewers or distillers and buy their beer for on-premises consumption and they can also buy a limited amount of beer for off-premises consumption. You can buy a 12-pack to go or something like that. The off-premises consumption here is one of the biggest changes.
On how alcohol wholesalers in Georgia are responding to the law:
It’s my understanding that SB 85 was a collaborative effort and that's what makes it so cool because it’s wholesalers, distributors and the retailers, the brewers kind of came together to create this bill. They think that it'll help out both the wholesale tier and also the manufacture tier, so by allowing brewers to sell directly to consumers that might be able to create a constant cash flow for these small breweries that need every bit of cash they can and then also increase their notoriety to where there'll be more beer to be distributed by the distributors.
So it was a collaborative effort on part of both the wholesale lobby, which has in the past been a much stronger lobby, and the brewers who kind of were backed by consumers as well just because people want to get as much access to these different and very unique kinds of beers that are coming out of Georgia.
On the parallels between Prohibition and the legalization of marijuana:
From what I've read about that, a lot of people have been drawing a lot of parallels between Prohibition with alcohol and legalization of marijuana.
Just like the craft beer movement got so large and so popular, once there's enough of a public outcry for these things to happen then it seems like it’s basically inevitable, but it might take a little time.