Alcohol

Lawmakers in Hawaii, Texas, and Georgia Are Making Alcohol Sales More Difficult, While Pols in Alabama and Wisconsin Embrace Liberalization

Hawaii's 10-cent booze tax draws ire of brewers, while Alabama moves toward legalizing alcohol delivery.

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America's alcohol laws—particularly those at the state and local levels—continue to evolve. But while that evolution often moves America toward making it easier for adults to buy, sell, and consume booze, far too often, policy moves in ways that do just the opposite.

State and local legislation currently under consideration in several states provides ample evidence of both the good and the bad. And it does so around a whole host of alcohol issues, including alcohol bans, licensing, taxation, delivery, and to-go drinks.

Chief among the recent bad alcohol developments is this one in Texas, where a prospective restaurant owner is fighting his town's dry past—and present. In November, voters in the then-dry town of Olney ended its complete ban on alcohol sales, which had been in place since 1909. The campaign was spearheaded by local businessman Oscar Muniz, who said he planned to open a restaurant in Olney that sells alcohol.

While voters clearly favored lifting the ban, not everyone was on board.

"Yes, on one hand, you might not have to drive 10 miles to get your beer, but on the other hand, what damage does it do," Chad Edgington, a pastor in Olney, said before the vote.

Despite Olney voters having lifted the century-old alcohol ban, the city council appears unmoved.

"Following an election that cleared the way for alcohol sales in Olney, city council members are moving forward with a plan that would ban alcohol sales within 1,000 feet of a school," reports KFDX. Those same reports also note that such a radius restriction would likely be illegal under Texas alcohol regulations.

But even if those rules did not prohibit such draconian restrictions, any radius rule in Olney—which covers just two square miles—would effectively serve as a de facto continuation of the town's century-old alcohol ban.

Skepticism and disdain over alcohol sales is also a driving force in Georgia, where a county commissioner is fighting the approval of more alcohol licenses in her district. Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas is holding up approval of a discount beer and wine shop because, she said, the site the prospective licensee wants to occupy is already "overpopulated" with alcohol sellers. Lucas, along with at least one other commissioner, is concerned about the store's proximity to schools and churches.

But the city has already determined the beer and wine shop complies with any proximity requirements, something at least one commission member is noting.

"I would like to remind my fellow commissioners if it meets the requirements of the law, we don't have a legal basis to deny the licenses," says commissioner Mallory Jones. "So all you're doing is encouraging a lawsuit."

Meanwhile, in Hawaii, a state senate commerce committee voted unanimously this week to approve a new 10-cent tax on all alcohol beverages sold in the state. The law, if adopted, would sunset in June 2024.

Food and beverage groups large and small oppose the measure. While Anheuser Busch lobbyist Tim Lyons told lawmakers the tax would dampen employment during the already terrible economic climate, driven by COVID-19 and related shutdowns, Garrett Marrero, president of the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild, said the new tax would "absolutely hurt[] the small craft brewers far more than it does very biggest producers."

While lawmakers in Hawaii, Texas, and Georgia are busy making alcohol sales more difficult, lawmakers in other states are doing much the opposite.

Take Alabama, where the state's senate judiciary committee moved last week to adopt a law that would lift a statewide ban on the delivery of beer, wine, and spirits to legal buyers in the state. While state laws vary, many allow some form of alcohol deliveries. The Alabama bill, S.B. 126, which still has to survive the legislative process in order to become law, has the support of the alcohol beverage industry.

Other states are making similarly good moves. In Wisconsin, three bipartisan bills under consideration in the state senate would deregulate various facets of alcohol sales.

The first, S.B. 57, would provide similar relief—home deliveries of alcohol—to that found in the Alabama bill. The second, S.B. 22, would allow licensed bars and restaurants to sell to-go cocktails. A third bill, S.B. 56, would allow consumers who buy alcohol by phone or online to have that alcohol brought out to their car while parked at the seller's retail location. 

"COVID-19 has expedited the need for these types of reforms," says Rep. Gary Tauchen, R–Bonduel, who sponsored two of the three Wisconsin bills.

Indeed, as I've already discussed at length, the ongoing pandemic has spurred a good deal of necessary (if imperfect) alcohol deregulation in this country, particularly at the state and local levels. These Alabama and Wisconsin bills are great examples of the type of alcohol reforms Americans and the economy need to recover. Lawmakers in other states—including Hawaii, Texas, and Georgia—should take note.

NEXT: Washington State Might Tax 4 People Billions of Dollars. What If They Leave?

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  1. …said the new tax would “absolutely hurt” the small craft brewers far more than it does very biggest producers.”
    Feature, not a bug.

    1. There seems to be even more policies than normal that do this lately.

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  2. Hawaii is more likely just democrats raising taxes on the workers; nothing new.
    Any politician opposing any type of home delivery is just a CIVID killer out to get rid of grandma. If we have to stay indoors wearing three masks and a hazmat suit, then delivery of everything MUST be permitted.
    Think of al those teamster jobs!

  3. While I feel for the 3000 people out in Olney in the prairie, I don’t think that quite ranks as chief of these laws or quite representative of Texas lawmakers as opposed to an entire statewide tax in Hawaii. I like the article, but that just amused me as a Texan that has driven through Olney a handful of times, there is nothing there.

    1. Yeah. I mean, sure, the town council in Olney are lawmakers, and they are in Texas, but population-proportionately, it’s like reporting on the General Council of Andorra as “lawmakers in Europe”.

      Given the Texas State Legislature is actually in session right now (it’s only in session a few months every two years), I was expecting a story on something involving, you know, them.

      1. Indeed, haha, on the bright side, Linnekin has probably given Olney the most national press coverage it has ever received.

  4. “Yes, on one hand, you might not have to drive 10 miles to get your beer, but on the other hand, what damage does it do,” Chad Edgington, a pastor in Olney, said before the vote.

    Edgington then went back to chanting bible verses and flogging his wife for speaking in public.

    1. He’s just encouraging exercise. Walking ten miles home while drunk is sure to sober you up or kill you; problem solved.

  5. “But even if those rules did not prohibit such draconian restrictions, any radius rule in Olney—which covers just two square miles—would effectively serve as a de facto continuation of the town’s century-old alcohol ban.”

    Really creative mullahs would impose a 1000 ft radius from any school child.

  6. “Lucas, along with at least one other commissioner, is concerned about the store’s proximity to schools and churches.”

    Afraid of the competition, is she?

  7. Libertarians used to say live and let live, but now they have to get in everyone’s face and demand allegiance.

  8. After left wing totalitarian Gov. Tom Wolf banned two thirds of all PA businesses (including all restaurants and bars) for two, three or four months last spring/summer, he only allowed restaurants and bars to reopen if they agreed to severely limit their number of customers, banned all customers from eating/drinking at all bars (only allowed at tables) and banned all customers from ordering drinks unless they also ordered food.

    In essence, Tom Wolf has (under emergency orders that he continues to reimpose despite vehement opposition by GOP lawmakers) banned all drinking of alcohol at all bars in PA since last March.

    Although the PA GOP lawmakers have approved many bills to allow bars and restaurants to reopen, and to limit the Governor’s ongoing abuse of emergency orders, virtually all Democrats in the PA General Assembly have voted to uphold all of Wolf’s vetoes.

    But since the GOP picked up several more PA Senate and House seats in November’s election, it appears that Democrats no longer have enough votes to sustain Wolf’s vetoes.

  9. Skepticism and disdain over alcohol sales is also a driving force in Georgia, where a county commissioner is fighting the approval of more alcohol licenses in her district.

    We have the same sort of thing in my Georgia county – I can assure you it’s not skepticism and disdain over alcohol sales. It’s the “more alcohol licenses” thing. You restrict the number of alcohol licenses and you make them more valuable. Make them more valuable and people will pay more for them. And we’re not talking about the sticker price of an alcohol license, that’s not how they get distributed. You gotta know somebody to get an alcohol license, you gotta be “friendly” with them. If you know what I mean.

    1. Nice business you plan to run there.
      Be a shame if it never opened.

  10. Isn’t Wisconsin the state with the highest rates of alcoholism already? I already kinda figured their laws against selling alcohol had to be minor in the first place.

  11. Chief among the recent bad alcohol developments is this one in Texas

    An alleged libertarian declares that a podunk wide-spot-in-the-road town voting to repeal it’s ban on alcohol sales is a “bad alcohol development” because a lone pastor (quite predictably) objected and because the city council is enacting an utterly meaningless (because it’s illegal and therefor unenforceable due to state law that preempts it) ban on alcohol sales within 1K feet of schools? Non only that, he thinks this is “chief among the recent bad alcohol developments” on a national scale?

    The author is the personification of the phrase, “Not to be taken seriously”.

  12. But even if those rules did not prohibit such draconian restrictions, any radius rule in Olney—which covers just two square miles—would effectively serve as a de facto continuation of the town’s century-old alcohol ban.

    The author might have saved himself some embarrassment if he’d taken just a moment to consult the Olney ISD website and a map, whereupon he would have found that Olney’s 3 schools (1 elementary school, 1 middle school and 1 high school) are all clustered on a single town block. Even without the map, and a worst case assumption that there is no overlap between these off-limits circles (even though there is considerable overlap between them), some middle school math would have told him that such exclusion zones would add up to just under 0.086 sq miles…~4.3% of the 2 square miles occupied by the town of Olney. But with the overlap in the areas around those schools, the exclusion zones actually represent significantly less area than that.

    1. And even if the 1,000 ft radius law was enforceable, and we made the same false worst-case assumption about no overlap…that would still represent just over 17% of the town’s total area.

    2. Check your middle school math. Area is πr², r = 1000 feet, that’s over 3.14 million square feet; 5280 feet in a mile, squared is 27,878,400 square feet per square mile; divide.

      That’s a little over 0.11 square miles. That’s closer to 5.1% than 4.3%. And that assumes one school which consists of a single point.

      1. Check your middle school math. Area is πr², r = 1000 feet, that’s over 3.14 million square feet; 5280 feet in a mile, squared is 27,878,400 square feet per square mile; divide.

        Check your middle school reading comprehension AND math, the lack of mastery thereof lead you to commit two critical errors:

        1) The town was cited as covering 2 square miles (or 55,756,800 sq ft), not 1.

        2) The figure of 4.3% was based on a legally enforceable radius of 500 ft. This is obvious from my follow-up post where I did the math for the 1,000 ft radius and arrived at 17%.

        So, for the 500 ft radius restriction and rounding to the nearest whole number:

        500^2 x 3.1415926 x 3 (# of schools) =
        250,000 x 3.141592 x 3 =
        785,398 x 3 = 2,356,194 sq. ft.

        2,356,194 / 55,756,800 = ~.042, or ~4.2% (I actually rounded that up in my previous post).

        So, for the 1,000 ft radius restriction and rounding to the nearest whole number:

        1,000^2 x 3.1415926 x 3 (# of schools) =
        1,000,000 x 3.1415926 x 3 =
        3,141,592 x 3 = 9,424,778 sq ft.
        9,424,776 / 55,756,800 = .169, or ~17% (I also made an upward rounding error on this in my previous post).

        I don’t know how the hell you came up with 5.1% of anything.

        1. Note: Halfway through editing the equations above I decided to shorten the value for Pi to 6 fractional digits, but neglected to make that edit to the first line of the first equation and the first 2 lines of the second equation. But it does not substantially alter the math.

          1. LMAO the internet is definitely impressed by you 😀 😀 😀

            1. Are you a Davy C sock puppet, or just another random dipshit?

              1. I am just someone who is very amused about the micro-brained know-it-all from the accounting department bragging about their 3rd grade math knowledge and being so desperate to look smart online lmao

                Keep those elaborate proofs coming, smarty 😀

                1. Your little know-it-all battle with Davy C is really cute I must say

  13. Re: Hawaii 10-cent tax on alcoholic beverages, sunsetting in June 2024. What am I missing, isn’t a 10-cent per drink tax tiny? A can of beer already carries a 5 or 10 cent deposit, which is often ignored (not enough to motivate one to return the can instead of tossing in garbage or recycling bin). Expected to raise $62M per year from a population of 1.4M, i.e., $44 per person. I know all taxes are bad, but this one seems minor, no?

    I am also surprised that the pro-tax side would spend political capital on a 3-yr temporary tax that will raise a total of $133 per person over three years and would seem to have negligible impact on alcohol consumption, for example raising the cost of a beer from $6 to $6.10 at a bar. Is the tax something more than just 10-cents per drink?

  14. While some in Georgia may be opposed to alcohol sales the trend state wide is in the opposite direction. Voters have approved loosening of restrictions on times of sales, most recently the Sunday Brunch law. There are still some odd restrictions but movement has been toward steady liberalization.

  15. One thing progressives and Christian fundamentalists can agree on: the demon rum.

    1. As a Texan that often drives through to get her Jell-O shots, I think acting as this one tiny town council in anyway represents Texas’s alcohol laws is kind of silly.

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