Beer bill narrowly passes through Senate amid opposition

The Missouri Senate passed a bill Thursday that would allow beer manufacturers and wholesalers to lease coolers to liquor stores and gas stations, ostensibly making it more affordable for retailers to sell cold beer.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, passed by the slimmest of margins, an 18-14 roll call. Schmitt says that the bill will help retailers, convenience stores and grocers sell more beer and wine by offering coolers and increased shelf space.

Opponents of the legislation, particularly craft brewers in the state, argue that it will put microbreweries at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Jeff Schrag, owner of the Springfield-based Mother’s Brewing Company, said small craft brewers can’t afford to outfit sellers with coolers the way large beer manufacturers or wholesalers can, noting that the bill was pushed by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Schrag saif he fears if large companies are allowed to lease refrigerators to retailers they will then be able to manipulate those retailers into displaying their own brands more prominently than they do beers made by smaller outfits, he said.

Schmitt said the bill has undergone more than 20 changes to add protections for small brewers and contains a three-year sunset so if it is found to be detrimental to microbreweries, lawmakers can choose not to renew the law.

Read more: Springfield News-Leader, Missouri Times

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