Lawmakers sponsor clashing bills between Arizona microbreweries, distributors

Competing beer-production bills will be up for a vote before an Arizona Senate committee Monday, but lawmakers are nudging the two sides to work things out.

The state Senate's Commerce and Workforce Development Committee will hear legislation that has come out of conflict between Arizona breweries and wholesale alcohol distributors.

The only thing the bills currently share is legislative sponsors. Sens. Carlyle Begay and Lupe Contreras as well as Rep. Sonny Borrelli have thrown their support behind the clashing legislation, the Arizona Capitol Times reported ( Begay, a Democrat from Ganado, said he hope the debate doesn't come down to lobbyist relationships deciding the issue.

"I'm not going to make any allegiance based on who is supporting which bill and which lobbyists are on which side," Begay said. "I think the merit of the issue should be addressed between the parties involved."

One bill is proposing expanding the state's yearly cap to 4.9 million gallons of beer for a company with several microbrewery licenses. Microbreweries such as Four Peaks have recently been edging up against the state-mandated limit of 40,000 barrels per year. But Camila Alarcon, a lobbyist for the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, said the bill was written without consulting microbreweries.

Sen. Steve Smith, who introduced the legislation, said microbreweries didn't contribute to the discussion when they were given the opportunity. "There's not a whole lot of ideas or participation from the other side," he said. "We absolutely tried."

Craft breweries are supporting the other bill, which proposes microbreweries that go above the current annual cap be considered beer producers. Sponsored by Sen. Kelli Ward, the legislation would also enable microbreweries to maintain retail operations. Four Peaks is currently in danger of losing two stand-alone restaurants where beer is not served. The owners have expressed dismay in recent months of possibly losing the businesses as well as the jobs that pay about 200 employees.

Contreras, a Democrat from Avondale, said he understands both sides. The distributors also have a valid argument that the production cap has already been raised twice in recent years because of the growth of Four Peaks and similar brewing operations. But he said the back-and-forth with no resolution is tiresome.

"Each side says the other side won't talk. And as a lawmaker, I'm getting tired of it," he said. "Who's lying to me and telling me the other person isn't working with them?"


Information from: Arizona Capitol Times,