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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