Nebraska craft brewers worry a bill could hurt their industry

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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Over 20 craft brewers from around Nebraska came to Lincoln Thursday to rally together and bring attention to a bill they believe could hurt their industry.

Brewers said the proposal could make some of Nebraskans favorite craft beer more expensive and limit the places people can buy it.

Caleb Pollard is the president of Scratchtown Brewing Company in Ord, and he said he is a big opponent of a bill he believes will hurt his company.

"To me it's nothing but a crass move by big beer to make the market noncompetitive," said Pollard.

Pollard said the laws currently in place are helping the craft brewing industry, his small business and his local economy.

"It gives us the opportunity to invest in these rural communities that are off the interstate, that often times under-appreciated and under-invested and it's something that we and a number of our other Sandhills breweries have gone out and we have done," said Pollard.

Nebraska brewers said the two big changes in the bill would lead to more transportation costs, and less tap rooms to independently sell their products.

But Senator Tyson Larson said the state needs these changes to make sure everyone follows the rules.

"LB 632 just tries to ensure that it does goes through the distributor and taxes can be collected because if it's not going through the distributor, we can't have quality control, we can't ensure the taxes are being collected," said Senator Larson.

Jim Englebart is the vice president of the Craft Brewers Guild in Nebraska. He said he doesn't know of any issues with unpaid taxes or any problems with the statute as it stands.

"They haven't been brought to the attention to Nebraska liquor control and the liquor control has not issued any violations," said Englebart.

As for Pollard, he said he just wants to have a fair and competitive marketplace.

"You're putting restrictions on businesses like mine who have a desire when we go through a production increase to meet new market opportunities in these other rural communities or under-served communities," said Pollard.

Brewers said they are open to modifying the bill, but if that doesn't work, they would like to see it killed. The General Affairs Committee hearing is scheduled for Monday, where several brewers said they will testify and have their side heard.