BALTIMIORE (WJZ) – With craft beers being more popular than ever, some brewers are asking why the can’t take their product straight to the grocery aisle.
Our media partner The Baltimore Sun says a high-profile panel of beer industry leaders met Wednesday to discuss whether to promote sales in grocery stores. Few, though, expect beer companies or legislative leaders to push for the change.
Maryland is one of just six states that prohibit the sale of beer in grocery stores, under laws that were passed decades ago during the prohibition-era as a way to segregate the alcohol business from distributors and retailers.
The others are Delaware, Minnesota, Utah, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Lifting the restriction would overturn a law that’s nearly 40 years old.
Baltimore based company Union Craft Brewing is among those against the idea.
“Just slicing up the pie a little bit further, it’s not that we can produce more for them, so that’s beer that is coming off the shelves of a small independent retailer to go to a chain store,” Jon Zerivitz of Union Craft Brewing said.
Zerivitz fears it could impact their overall revenue.
“We don’t have to sell with volume discounts that you would in a chain store, and they’re often driven by just pure sales data, does the product move off the shelves, and their shelf space is limited especially for the craft section,” he said.
The topic took center stage during a reform on Tap Task Force meeting, a group created by Comptroller Peter Franchot.
The idea of bringing beer to grocery stores is actually supported by many consumers simply because it’s convenient.
“Hard to get use to going the carry out or liquor store to get a beverage,” said Baltimore resident Gard Jones. “Less parking, less gas, less traffic, better for the City, better for the environment, better for me.”
Some consumers in Maryland feel the change would actually help increase sales.
“Convenient for those because everyone comes shopping,” said Woodrow Williams, who lives in Baltimore.
Adding beer to Maryland’s grocery stores could impact the state’s alcohol sales structure.
“It’s time to end the ridiculousness, the fact of the matter is we are living in an era of prohibition, in the 21st century, and the only people who can effect this change are elected officials,” said Adam Borden with Marylanders for Better Beer and Wine Laws.
The next meeting for the reform on Tap Task Force is scheduled for September 27th, it’s open to the public and streamed online for those who cannot make it in person.
The reform on tap task force has 40 members representing regions across Maryland.
The Sun reached out to Franchot, who regulates alcohol sales, for his position on the law.
Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for the Comptroller, told them, ““The comptroller’s position is, and has always been, that grocery stores should sell groceries and retail stores should sell beer, wine and spirits. However, he also knows this is an issue of great concern and interest to consumers and small businesses across the state.”
A 2012 Gonzales Research poll found that 63 percent of Maryland residents wanted the convenience of beer and wine sales in grocery stores, with more than 70 percent in rural areas.
However, despite the popular public opinion, some worry that big chain grocery stores could hurt the smaller brewers, as well as mom and pop style liquor stores.