Queensland’s craft brewers are clutching to small wins while mourning a lost opportunity as the state government passes legislation designed to support their growth.
Last night the Queensland Parliament passed the Liquor (Artisan Liquor) Amendment Bill 2020 which aims to assist the artisanal liquor industry by creating a new liquor licence category for craft brewers and artisanal distillers.
The new artisan liquor licence will allow small brewers and distillers to operate taprooms without an additional licence.
However, Independent Brewers Association board member and state representative David Kitchen described the provisions of the Act as being ‘watered down’ compared to the proposals developed with the Department of State Development.
“The [legislation] came out of the Craft Beer Strategy working group, but they haven’t delivered and it’s been a really weak result,” he said.
“The concerning thing for me is that we spent two and a half years, and a lot of time across industry, coming up with some very good proposals that the Department of State Development accepted and put up, and then they were hacked back.
“It hasn’t achieved what Minister Dick intended, it hasn’t achieved what the department designed originally, it hasn’t achieved what it was designed to do.”
While the state’s Craft Beer Strategy is administered by the Queensland Department of State Development, which supported the craft brewers’ proposals, Kitchen said its approach appeared to be at odds with the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.
“The regulator has done everything they can to minimise the benefits that we can get and restrict what we can do, and so now there are actually more restrictions, more guidelines and more paperwork on us going out to do public activities than there ever was before,” he said.
“More of the legislation is about the powers that OLGR has to reduce what we’re allowed to do, even if it’s written in the legislation than the legislation enables us to do something.”
Kitchen said initial recommendations aligned with what the industry had sought, but these had been scaled back.
“You could see that anything that gave us extra capabilities was slashed.”
Kitchen noted that the regulator’s onerous administrative approach was ironic given hoped-for craft beer permits were initially mooted as far back in 2014, under a Red Tape Reduction Bill.
“While we now have access to Commercial Public Events Permits, these are for huge events usually beyond our scope and the cost and administration involved will mean they are unlikely to be used.”
Queensland brewers were previously granted craft beer permits for events under the 2016 Tackling Alcohol-Fuelled Violence Legislation Amendment Act developed by the Office of Liquor and Gaming.
Brews News understands no brewery in the state has used these permits.
What is included
The legislation permits craft breweries to sell their own products and also those of other Queensland artisan producers, up to a maximum of 30 per cent of sales. Craft breweries can also sell takeaways and online sales.
Artisan producer licensees will also have the ability to sell unlimited takeaways of their own liquor, accept online orders for their own liquor and sell their liquor wholesale. Current restrictions limiting retail sales to 2.5 per cent of total sales will not apply to artisan producer licensees.
The artisan producer licensees allow brewers to attend promotional events, such as farmers markets and sell their liquor as samples and takeaways. Servings will be “limited to minimise the risk of alcohol-related harm”. Samples are limited to 150ml at promotional events, despite no similar restriction being placed on winemakers.
Attorney General Shannon Fentiman said the state would waive the $1,446 application fee for producers that transition to the new licence before June 30th.
While the IBA is disappointed with the final legislation, Kitchen said the OLGR has committed to establishing a working committee to review the success of the legislation and make changes as necessary.
Updates: The Queensland Government yesterday (10th March) posted a statement on its website regarding the legislation changes.
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman
Queensland’s artisan distillers and craft brewers now have more opportunities to grow their business by operating under their own, tailor-made, liquor licence.
Attorney General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman announced small-scale liquor producers will be able to apply for a new artisan producer licence.
“This is all about backing small business, creating jobs, and helping Queensland kickstart its economy after COVID,” said Minister Fentiman.
“And this is fantastic news for Queensland’s artisan distillers and craft brewers to help them grow their business, and their brand.”
“This sector was identified as an up and coming powerhouse, not only within Queensland’s liquor industry but in the state’s greater business landscape.
Before the pandemic disrupted the industry, Queensland craft brewers and artisan distillers contributed significantly to the economy and employed nearly 2000 people.
“This opportunity empowers a promising sector of Queensland’s liquor industry, allowing for new business opportunities and increased revenue, while they continue their COVID-19 recovery.”
Benefits of the new artisan producer licence include:
- no limit to how much of their own product can be sold on their premises;
- an option to showcase and sell samples of their wares at promotional events such as farmer’s markets, food festivals and agricultural shows;
- the ability to sell their product as takeaway, including online; and
- an authorisation to apply for a permit to sell their products at a public event, such as a music festival.
“They will also be able to sell, for consumption at their venue, Queensland wine and the products of other Queensland artisan producers – which is a fantastic way for them to back their fellow artisan producers,” Minister Fentiman continued.
Applications for the new licence are now open for any small business operator who currently produces or intends to produce their own craft beer or artisan spirits.
The commercial other – artisan producer licence is a result of the Artisan Liquor Bill, which was passed by Parliament on 9 March 2021 and is proposed to commence on 3 May 2021.
Once the new laws have commenced, the government will establish a Queensland Artisan Liquor Advisory Group – providing stakeholders a platform to share feedback on the regulatory framework and future direction of the industry.