Better Beer Laws = Better Beer Business!

The economics of the local beer world got a very positive shakeup on June 28, when the signing of House Bill 8100 and Senate Bill 3053 allowed Rhody breweries to sell 288 ounces of beer for off-premise consumption (up from 72 ounces) and sell 36 ounces to taproom visitors. We asked the state’s beermakers to tell us about the immediate impact on their thriving small businesses; here’s the intel from four of them.

Nick Garrison, Foolproof Brewing Company: I received a cool e-mail from Square (the POS service we use for retail) letting me know that July was our highest month ever for retail sales. To put that in perspective, July is historically a very slow month for us retail-wise, as we have no major events at the brewery, and visitation levels are relatively low due to the summer season. This is unquestionably due to the changes to the law. Here’s to an even better August!

Nate Broomfield, Bucket Brewery: The changes have had a big impact and we’re just getting started! The short story is that revenues are up about 50% or more for the weekends. I have two new staff members on board to help cover the increased traffic. This is just the beginning, though. We started showing weekly movies, kicking off with Mad Max: Fury Road. That should take Thursdays from a trickle of guests to a solid crowd, with the added revenue one would expect with an event. I’ll also be partnering with the O’Crepe food truck to open on Sundays for brunch. This has all led to me investing in infrastructure with the activation of 45% more fermentation capacity, so our local HVAC guys will be getting some business as well. I haven’t calculated the sales tax revenue for July, but my guess is that the state will also see a nice boost from this activity!

There is a less quantifiable part of this as well. The added exposure has dramatically increased requests for private functions to be held at the brewery as well as partnerships with other businesses, so a boost in positive exposure is also shaping up to have a lot of value.

Brent Ryan, Newport Storm: We’ve seen the laws have a modest impact on revenue, but they have had the biggest impact so far on our crew not having to say “no” to visitors who would like to pick up more than 72 ounces. It creates a better impression of their visit, which improves their impression of us. We still occasionally have to say “no” to visitors who would prefer higher limits, but the change has been good for us. We have not implemented sales by the glass at this point as this requires some changes to our facility and the way we operate.

Andy Tran, Whaler’s Brewing Company: We’ve seen an immediate increase in the consistency of our visitation. In addition, the typical sale has gone up by roughly 15% to 20%. For our part, the ability to make sales at retail for on-premise consumption has had a far larger buoying effect than the 288-ounce limit increase – less than 5% of off-premise transactions exceed the previous 72-ounce limit. Our returning customer pool has increased tremendously, which speaks to the effect it has on the local craft beer drinkers’ access to the unique experience they get at a brewery. Additionally, we’ve been able to hire two more people. This is just the beginning of our measurable data set so it is subject to change, but it is a very tantalizing potential trend.

For more beer news, check Lou’s blog, bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com, or follow @BottlesCansRI.

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