Proposed ABC regulations worry craft beer advocates

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Members of Free the Hops, a grassroots organization created to support craft beer in Alabama, are now speaking out about a proposed Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) rule they say could infringe on customers' privacy.

It's being called the "record-keeping requirement," and you can find it here. It's part of a longer list of regulations proposed by the AL ABC Board, but the part causing the biggest controversy in the beer community. It would require the breweries to report to the ABC off-premise beer purchasers' names, phone numbers, birthdays, and addresses, subject to ABC verification.

"This has a really far-reaching implication on how far regulations can go to collect and solicit information from us, over a beer," said Carie Partain, vice president of Free the Hops. "We don't want to see an impediment to enjoying a beer, for us and for the industry and the implications it puts on them."

Partain said she's not a fan of the regulation and worries about what it means for breweries who would, under the regulation, be charged with collecting and protecting personal information.

"The problem for me is an invasion of privacy," she said. "I'm a little over-concerned about my identity theft monitoring, and I don't want a brewery to be responsible for that over a beer."

Free the Hops posted this in response to the proposed rule on Facebook:

hopsFB

Partain is concerned about the business side of things, too.

"It's an impediment to fair trade in the business market because [breweries] can't protect my information adequately without taking on new costs and new burdens, and being taxed to do so," said Partain. She also wonders if it will impact business: "I think they wold lose some of that revenue stream because people would not want to share that level of information."

WHNT News 19 is looking into why the board wants to start this record-keeping rule. Dean Argo, Governmental Relations Manager for the AL ABC Board, said while he wasn't present for the vote he would guess it's about auditing. He noted that the ABC board, as a regulatory agency, must enforce laws. These new regulations would be all about enforcing the latest law, dubbed the "growler bill," which took effect June 1. We have not yet gotten in touch with a board member for clarification about the need for the record-keeping.

The board is now seeking public comment on the regulations, which Argo notes is a standard process. Public comments last through September 7. According to the ABC Board's website, "interested persons may present their views in writing to the Administrative Procedures Secretary, Alabama ABC Board, 2715 Gunter Park Drive West, Montgomery, Alabama 36109, or via email admin@abc.alabama.gov."

Argo said the board has already gotten a lot of input.

He added that the board will review the comments, and can do several things during their September 28 meeting. They can: 1.) vote for the rules; 2.) vote against the rules; 3.) extend the comment period; or 4.) change the proposal, then seek more public comment about those changes.

We asked Dan Roberts of The Alabama Brewers Guild for his take on the regulations, but he wasn't quite ready to comment. He did say that the guild plans to work with the ABC board and participate in the public comment process.