A recent proposal by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that would require breweries to record the personal information of consumers has drawn criticism from the Alabama Brewers Guild and the consumer group Free the Hops.
The ABC Board recently proposed changes to eight of its rules to make them more consistent with recently enacted legislation and solicited public input. The vast majority of the changes were non-controversial, and some were even suggested by craft brewers, according to the Alabama Brewers Guild website.
However, a single sentence in the proposed amendments to the board’s record keeping requirements has elicited vocal resistance: the requirement that “Off–premise sales reporting shall include the purchaser’s name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and shall be subject to verification by the ABC Board.”
This change would require any brewery that sells beer for off-premise consumption to take down each buyer’s personal information and could have a real financial impact on local breweries, warned Nick Hudson, president of Free the Hops. “I think that while some people don’t really mind giving up their information, there will be a good amount of people who will,” he said. “So those people who want to go into a brewery to get a growler or whatever would either go to somewhere else like a bottle shop to do it or wouldn’t do it at all.”
What Hudson finds particularly concerning is that the regulation notes that the recorded information “shall be subject to verification by the ABC Board.” In a post on the Free the Hops website, Hudson argues, “As nonsensical as it might seem, this rule would essentially empower the ABC Board to come to an individual’s house to confirm his or her purchase of a six pack of beer.”
“They could never enforce it, or they could. Who knows? But I think the potential of somebody going to your house to verify that you purchased something is a little wrong, and sadly a little funny,” Hudson said in a phone interview.
The proposed change is intended to enforce a limit passed by the Alabama legislature on individuals purchasing more than 288 ounces of alcohol a day from a brewery, said Dan Roberts, executive director of the Alabama Brewers Guild.
Weld reached out to the ABC Board directly but was told by Dean Argo, the Board’s Government Relations Manager, that “any interview at this point in the process could influence the public input until the comment period ends.”
Roberts said he respects the ABC’s intention but believes there are better ways to go about enforcing that limit. “It is the brewery’s responsibility not sell someone more than 288 ounces per day,” he said. “It’s usually not a good idea to tell the regulated entity how to do that. Punish them for not doing it, but don’t tell us how to do it.”
While both Hudson and Roberts are opposed to the change, neither are particularly worried that the ABC Board will enact that particular provision. Roberts explained that the board has traditionally listened to the concerns of brewers and consumers and said that the guild plans to submit alternative plans that would enforce the legal sales limit while still maintaining consumer privacy. “I think they would be willing to accept a reasonable alternative that allows us to do our job,” he predicted.
“I think [this provision] will be removed, but you never know,” said Hudson. “So it’s always a good idea to keep up letting your voice be heard regardless of whether you think something’s going to happen or not.”