by Nancy Stiles
If all goes according to plan, Anheuser-Busch InBev will soon lose its large presence in Kentucky after a lengthy legal battle. The state senate passed a bill last week that would prevent businesses from owning more than one kind of malt beverage license -- meaning you couldn't have both a brewer's license and a distributor's license.
Smaller brewers are getting behind the bill, which they see as a way to product the growing craft beer industry in Kentucky. A-B currently owns a distributorship in Louisville and bought one in Owensboro last year -- a move that so riled up local brewers, the company had to get a court order to grant it rights to the wholesale distribution license.
Anheuser-Busch is obviously not happy with the vote, which governor Steve Beshear could veto. "This has been an appalling exercise and nothing short of a full-scale attack on a good corporate citizen who has followed every rule and invested heavily in the commonwealth of Kentucky for decades," Damon Williams, A-B's director of sales and marketing Louisville, said in a statement. "This legislation violates our rights under the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions, discriminates against our company by providing economic protections for in-state special interests, and represents nothing short of a taking of our property."
The bill, if passed, could hurt smaller businesses as well -- Cincinnati brewer Bob Bonder testified that he would have to close the Kentucky distribution business he recently started to give his own beer and others a wider audience.
"We want to make sure that the environment in the state stays competitive and that all brewers regardless of size or location are set on an even playing field with regards to their distribution," said John King, executive director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers.
If Governor Beshear approves the bill, Anheuser-Busch would be forced to sell its two distributorships, which employ about 190 people.
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