Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a controversial brewery bill Tuesday afternoon that benefits craft brewers and was blasted by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
The legislation creates a new liquor permit for breweries that make less than 31 million gallons a year. The new permit, called an A-1c, will replace the A-1 permit for small brewers and reduce their annual licensing fee from $3,906 to $1,000.
Craft brewers have praised the legislation, saying it will allow them to invest more money into their breweries.
Only two breweries in Ohio definitely make more than 31 million gallons annually: Anheuser-Busch in Columbus and MillerCoors in Trenton. Boston Beer Co. has declined to say how much it produces at its Samuel Adams Brewery in Cincinnati.
The legislation, called Senate Bill 48, passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, but Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, protested a provision inserted at the last minute that bars large brewers from owning or having a financial stake in wholesale distributors. Anheuser-Busch, which owns a distributorship in Canton and will be allowed to continue to run that business, complained heavily and met with the governor and lawmakers to outline its stance.
"We are very disappointed that this legislation will now become law, and remain concerned about the manner in which this anti free market legislation was introduced and passed," Anheuser-Busch said Tuesday in a statement. "We have, however, had productive and constructive discussions with policymakers, and our concerns about the lack of transparency in the legislative process were heard and acknowledged. Positive assurances were made to address the issues that significantly impact our investments in the state. We are pleased with the open-mindedness demonstrated by the governor and legislators to working towards a more equitable solution.
"Anheuser-Busch is proud of its long-standing roots in Ohio, employing almost 800 people statewide in our Columbus brewery and the Canton wholesale operation. We are hopeful that the final resolution will maintain consumer choice and the free market principles that have made Ohio a great place to do business.”
The legislation also allows liquor permits to be transferred easier as part of economic development projects and permits brewers to open a tasting room within a half-mile of their production facilities.