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Wisconsin committee approves gift measure.

Associated Press--Brewers and wholesalers could give more expensive gifts to owners of bars and restaurants that serve beer under a measure approved by the Legislature's budget committee.

The provision would let brewers and wholesalers give gifts worth $2,500 and entertainment worth $500 up to eight times a year. Current law allows for gifts worth $150 and entertainment worth $75 up to 12 times a year.

Legislators on the Joint Finance Committee, which voted 14-1 Thursday on the issue, gave in to lobbying pressure from larger breweries like Miller Brewing Co., said Deb Carey, founder of New Glarus Brewing Co. and president of the Wisconsin Brewer's Guild.

The changes would hurt Wisconsin's 56 small breweries that cannot afford to give tavern owners lavish gifts or trips, Carey said. "This isn't the sort of thing your average brewer can jump into," she said.

The changes hurt "all small independent businesses" but will harm and maybe put out of business Wisconsin's 56 small breweries who cannot shower tavern or restaurant owners with lavish gifts or trips, Carey asserted. She compared it to "raising the 55 miles per hour speed limit to 200 miles per hour.

Carey told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her company, a small brewery in New Glarus, has about 400 Madison-area accounts--too many for the eight-year-old operation to give one of its clients lavish gifts.

State Rep. John Gard, R-Peshtigo, said the $150 gift limit often is violated and not enforced. He called the current limits meaningless.

Scott Stenger, lobbyist for the Wisconsin Tavern League and Miller Brewing owner Philip Morris Cos., said state Revenue Department officials asked tavern owners to update the law to make it reasonable.

The law was pushed by Miller Brewing and its corporate parent, Philip Morris Cos., and the tavern industry, the change would rewrite a law passed in the 1930s to avoid one or two brewers from dominating beer production, wholesaling and sales.

The measure also would let large brewers provide free ads about a special promotion or contest, if four taverns or businesses that sell beer--instead of just one--are mentioned in the ad.

Also, under the change, it would be illegal for beer sellers to decide what beer to sell based on the provision of a promotional gift or entertainment from a brewer or wholesaler.

The provision needs approval from the full Legislature and Gov. Scott McCallum to become law. The Joint Finance Committee endorsed the entire state budget last week and sent it to the state Senate.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 18, 2001
Words:416
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