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Brewers, wholesalers renew 10-year-old battle.

Brewers and wholesalers have renewed a 10-year-old straggle over Indiana's prohibition against establishing exclusive territories for beer sales.

Bartholomew County Beverage Co. said in Marion County Superior Court last week that price incentives implemented in 1993 by Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee circumvents the prohibition.

Miller pays wholesalers more for beer sold to retailers within assigned territories than for sales to retailers elsewhere.

Consumer advocates contend such restrictions create monopolies and cast wholesalers as beer barons, triggering higher prices for consumers.

In 1993, Attorney General Pamela Carter asked the court to decide on the legality of the price incentive.

Alan S. Brown, an attorney representing Bartholomew, said Miller tried to limit his client's sales to adjoining counties when it implemented the price incentive in 1993. The Columbus wholesaler also sells to retailers in Indianapolis, Brown said.

Brown said the price incentive is tantamount to creating exclusive territories prohibited by state law and an Alcoholic Beverage Commission role. He characterized the incentive as "Son of Beer Baron."

Miller attorney Ronald D. Gifford said Brown had the facts wrong. The brewer's price structure has been in place since 1993 and Bartholomew County Beverage continues to sell to retailers outside its territory, Gifford said.

"If this is Son of Beer Baron, it has not worked," he said.

Miller's pricing structure was no different than a quantity sales incentive because it is offered to wholesalers statewide, Gifford said.

Indiana is the only state that prohibits exclusive territories for beer wholesalers, lawyers on both sides asserted.

In 1989, the Indiana General Assembly passed beer baron legislation that would have allowed exclusive wholesale territories, but Gov. Evan Bayh vetoed it. In 1992, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected a challenge of anti-beer baron laws and regulations. Judge David L. Rimstidt took the matter under advisement and ordered lawyers to submit written legal arguments. No date has been set for a decision.
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Title Annotation:Indiana's beer baron legislation
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Feb 20, 1995
Words:314
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