Omnibus liquor bill advanced

A bill that would make a variety of changes to the state’s Liquor Control Act advanced from general file March 9.

LB1105, introduced by O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, would establish the Nebraska Craft Brewery Board. The board would include seven governor-appointed members who have been involved in the beer industry.

The bill also would create the Nebraska Beer Industry Promotional Fund to advance, market and promote the beer brewing process in Nebraska and the agricultural products grown and produced in the state for use in the beer industry. The fund would consist of money credited from beer manufacturer shipping licenses and a $250 annual fee for craft brewery licensees.

“The Nebraska Craft Brewery Board would serve as an advisory panel to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission in all matters pertaining to the beer industry,” Larson said.

In addition, the bill would make the following changes to the Liquor Control Act:
• remove the requirement that a club must have a kitchen;
• harmonize the excise tax rate and make the statute applicable to wholesale and manufacturing licensees, not just retail licensees;
• remove the prohibition on “other fruit product nor any artificial product which imparts a fruit flavor other than apple” in the hard cider definition;
• establish a liquor license class for small boutiques to sell a limited amount of alcohol;
• eliminate the requirement that a licensee must reapply for a license if the licensee’s location is annexed by an adjacent municipality;
• increase the penalty for the illegal manufacturing of spirits;
• repeal the prohibition on pull tab or pull tops on soda and beer cans; and
• clarify that a craft brewery licensee, who has held the license for a minimum of three years and operates a brewpub or microbrewery, must obtain a manufacturer’s license once the licensee exceeds 20,000 barrels.

The bill also would allow employees who are at least 16 years old to ring up tickets that include alcohol purchases as long as the employee does not handle alcohol.

A General Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 31-0, removed a provision that would allow an employee between the ages of 16 and 19 to handle alcohol if he or she had taken a Liquor Control Commission approved server training course.

The amendment would house the Nebraska Craft Brewery Board within the state Department of Agriculture rather than the Nebraska Tourism Commission. The department also would be tasked with administering the board’s fund.

The amendment incorporated provisions of two additional bills.

LB748, introduced by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, would allow an individual to import alcohol—up to 108 liters per calendar year—for personal use from a holder of a retail direct sales shipping license or its equivalent.

LB1046, introduced by Crete Sen. Laura Ebke, would allow a Nebraska resident who is legally able to work in the state to be eligible for a liquor license regardless of U.S. citizenship.

Cedar Rapids Sen. Kate Sullivan supported the amendment and the bill, saying craft breweries have been a boon for several small towns in the state.

“This is burgeoning business out in rural Nebraska,” she said.

Following adoption of a technical amendment offered by Larson, LB1105 advanced to select file 32-0.

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