The Fight Over Massachusetts’ Alcoholic Beverage Franchise Laws

Massachusetts brewers descended on Beacon Hill last week to continue their almost decade-long fight to liberate their beer from the draconian franchise law holding them hostage. Pursuant to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 138 Section 25E, any brewery (or distillery or vineyard for that matter) that sells its product to a distributor for a six-month period is automatically entered into a business relationship (whether an explicit agreement exists or not) requiring the brewery to sell that particular product exclusively to that distributor, potentially for life. The inability to extricate their products from distributor relationships, particularly when the business relationship has deteriorated, has irked brewers for years. Meanwhile, Distributors suggest a change in the law would risk jobs and shutter businesses. Several bills are pending at the State House to do just that, but to fully understand the current situation it helps to have some background.

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Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage License Types

If you’re thinking about opening a business involving the manufacture, distribution, or sale of alcoholic beverages within Massachusetts, you will need to acquire an alcoholic beverage license from the State’s alcohol licensing agency - the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (and sometimes from the federal government and/or local licensing authority, depending on the business). Acquiring such a license can be a consuming process, taxing both time and money, but with the proper planning you can make sure it goes down as easy as your favorite after-work drink.

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A Not-So-Surprising Shift in the Massachusetts Brewing Industry

Night Shift Brewing, one of the more successful and entrepreneurial breweries in Massachusetts,  is set to launch their own beer distribution company. Based in in Everett, Night Shift has built their brand from the ground up. They developed an allegiance of customer support that travels near and far to their taproom in order to enjoy their wildly popular beers. In 2014 they moved into a 30,000 square foot facility in Everett with a large taproom. Their beers became so popular that they recently opened an expanded taproom area to accommodate the nightly influx of eager patrons. During this time, the brewery has always self-distributed its own product. Weary of the long-term relationship that is created once entering into a distribution arrangement with a wholesaler, they opted for full control with potentially less reach while building their brand. 

 

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'Tis the Season For Alcoholic Beverage License Renewals

If you own a restaurant, retail liquor store, brewery, or any other business with an alcoholic beverage license, you must renew this license during the month of November for the next year or risk its loss. Its a relatively easy process but errors or failure to renew can be a fatal blow to your business. Read more here and be sure to consult an experienced attorney to ensure your application is accurate and complete. 

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