New liquor laws aid local distributors

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By Morgan Bryce
Opelika Observer

In Alabama’s most recent legislative session, two pieces of legislation were signed into law that will have an effect on Opelika’s Red Clay Brewing Company and John Emerald Distillery.
The main point of contrition for small, family-owned companies such as Red Clay and John Emerald were the previous laws that kept them from selling alcohol directly to their customers, which limited them to tastings only. After years of lobbying and smaller pieces of legislation serving as stepping stones, Alabama’s Senate Bill 132 and House Bill 46 will allow customers to buy regulated amounts of liquor directly from the producers.
Senate Bill 132, signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on March 17, went into effect June 1. According to the bill, customers are allowed to buy 288 ounces per person per purchase directly from breweries. John Corbin, a co-founder of Red Clay, said the passing of the bill was a huge relief.
“When this bill passed, we were ecstatic,” Corbin said. “This will bring us significantly more revenue and allow for us to hire more people to accommodate for our growing needs.”
House Bill 46, signed into law by Bentley on April 7, goes into effect on July 1. Prior to the passing of this bill, distilleries had only been permitted to offer samples to their patrons, but now, they will be able to sell one bottle per person directly to customers. Jimmy Sharp, master distiller for the John Emerald Distilling Company, said he is excited to see what positive effects that this bill has on Alabama’s distilleries.
“I was shocked when I heard the news,” Sharp said. “Prior to the bill’s passing, we were only able to offer samples of our products in a tasting room. We had been having a hard time getting our products distributed and turned interested buyers away right and left because of the law. Now, we will be able to sell to our patrons at the store, which is going to really help us out.”
Corbin and Sharp both admitted that they would like to see more changes in the future to Alabama’s liquor laws, but for now, both are happy with their respective businesses stand.
“I’d like to see more laws that make this process easier, but we’ll take what we can get. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Corbin said.
Sharp said he is thrilled to see the journey that his distillery has taken.
“We opened up only two years ago, and have already made a lot of progress,” Sharp said. “Our state is catching up with the times, and I’m really excited to see how this industry grows in the future.”

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