August 24, 2011 (San Diego) – A bill making it easier for breweries to open tasting rooms has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. AB 1014, authored by local Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) is expected to boost business for California’s growing craft brewing industry.
The bill exempts breweries from requirements to install industrial sinks, redo plumbing and electricial wiring if they wish to offer beer samples or pre-packaged foods such as pretzels. Such renovations can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Wineries have previously been exempted from such requirements. The new bill puts breweries on a level playing field with wineries to open tasting rooms by amending the California Retail Code, which primarily targets restaurants and food production facilities, 10 News has reported.
San Diego County is home to numerous craft beer brewers whose products have won numerous medals at various national and international competitions.
“There are over 250 craft brewers in California, many of which are expanding and adding jobs on a regular basis to meet demand,” Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Small Brewers Association has said. “We are expanding and adding jobs on a regular basis to meet demand. Nationwide, craft beer grew 11% last year while major brands were flat.”
The legislation arose after Hess Brewing, a San Diego brewery, ran into a road block after contacting the health department about offering tastes to local beer aficionados. According to the company’s website, the County’s health department suddenly realized that it had not regulated breweries’ tasting rooms. “After they realized their mistake they decided to finally `regulate’ a number of local breweries,” Hess noted on its site, adding, “This created quite the brouhaha.”
After local breweries and beer drinkers raised their voices in protest, San Diego’s Department of Environmental Health contacted the California Department of Health and learned that regulating breweries was at their discretion. Local health officials backed down—but other counties continued forcing breweries to conform to costly rules that the industry argued were unnecessary.
Hess contacted Fletcher, who introduced what Hess dubs the “Drink local!” bill, making it more affordable for smaller breweries to be competitive by offering tasting rooms—much to the delight of local beer drinkers.
In a Legislature often divided by partisan feuding, it’s rare to find agreement. But AB 1014 passed both houses with unanimous support. McCormick said of the bill’s hearty bipartisan support, “Yet another example that good beer brings people together.”