| Austin City Council has beer on the brain - or at least they did at their meeting last Friday. Brought to the table by Councilmembers Chris Riley and Mike Martinez, the new measure could have a huge impact on local craft breweries and the Austin economy.
Austin's craft beer scene is booming. The city, which is among the best beer cities in the country, has upwards of eighteen breweries within the city limits and surrounding areas. Until the vote on Friday, many of Austin's local craft brewers were unable to take advantage of new laws coming out of the 2013 session - changes that increase breweries' ability to impact the local economy as thriving and expanding small businesses.
More on this development for lovers of Austin beer and local businesses below the jump.
|In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a set of laws aimed at allowing Texas craft brewers to expand their production, sales, and profits. One of the most exciting provisions focused on the sale of alcohol on site at local breweries. Up to this point, breweries could not sell alcohol on the premises - hence the buy a glass, get a pint (or three) model used by most breweries on their tours in the past.
Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham explained the importance of this law before it passed, saying:
Currently, we're allowed to have guests over and give samples away, but we can't sell beer directly to the consumer. Having that ability would be a nice revenue stream for us. We'd be able to hire more people and it gives more flexibility to the consumer.
All of this was well and good for craft breweries - unless they happened to be located in Austin, Texas. The city's rules regarding zoning and the sale of beer on site had not yet caught up to the changes made by the legislature. As a result, breweries outside of the city and in areas where zoning was not a problem were able to take advantage of the new laws and increased revenue, but most of the local breweries were not.
Craft beer in Texas is serious business. Local breweries added $737 million to the Texas economy in 2012, and 59.7% of Texans employed by breweries are employed by small craft breweries. The newly out-of-date city measures were effectively blocking these important small businesses from increasing profits and expanding, both in terms of employment and production. After the vote on Friday, they no longer face local hurdles to these exciting new changes. As the sponsor of the measure, Councilmember Chris Riley, explained:
This is great news for fans of Austin's local businesses, and local breweries in particular. Now many more of us will be able to enjoy local brews right at their source. This long-awaited step, made possible by recent changes in state law, will help ensure that our local businesses can thrive as our city and its economy continue to grow. I was glad to sponsor the resolution that initiated this change, and I'm grateful to all the local entrepreneurs and others who helped us work this out.
Thanks to Riley, Martinez, and the city council, the Austin craft beer community is on it's way to being stronger than ever. That's certainly worth raising a glass of your favorite local brew!