The next time you hear someone extol the virtues of nimble, business-friendly state government, remember the saga of 10 Barrel Brewing Co.
The Bend, Ore., brewery secured a state Department of Lands lease in November, with plans to operate a pub at a state-owned building in Downtown Boise.
Then 10 Barrel encountered a snag. The problem has nothing to do with its novel status as a state building leaseholder, and instead has everything to do with beer distribution laws dating back to Prohibition.
A “certificate of approval” allows 10 Barrel to bring in beer it has brewed in Oregon. But state law prohibits 10 Barrel from selling this beer at a pub that it operates in Idaho. The premise is that no business should be able to monopolize the beer business, from production to distribution to retail.
Now, 10 Barrel is seeking to hammer out a solution. But if the law is to be fine-tuned, which it very well might, then nothing is going to happen until the 2013 legislative session. By then, 10 Barrel will have spent well over a year in regulatory purgatory, while the state holds onto a $50,000 deposit on 10 Barrel’s building lease.
We’re not suggesting the state turn a blind eye to its liquor laws. If the law prohibits out-of-state bottlers from peddling their product at the retail level, then the Idaho State Police’s Alcohol Beverage Control division has no recourse but to enforce the law.
The problem — and what has 10 Barrel over a barrel of bureaucracy — is that no one seemed to connect the dots before the brewery signed a 15-year lease. For that, the ISP and the Lands Department can take some share of the heat. However, a new business also bears responsibility for knowing the rules going in.
This is a blame game. 10 Barrel co-owner Garrett Wales and ABC chief Bob Clements are pointing fingers at each other for the communication breakdown. But in a state that talks about fostering new business, this nine-month impasse shouldn’t be that difficult to resolve. Anyone for a beer summit?