Louisiana breweries complying with new food sales rule

Despite initial confusion, no breweries in the state have had to close because of a newly-imposed rule on food sales by the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, an industry leader said today at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

The ATC issued a memo in March notifying breweries they can only have food operations if they are “incidental to beer sales,” meaning food sales cannot be more than 25% of beer sales. The memo ruffled feathers in the industry, with several breweries wondering whether they could have in-house kitchens, said Cary Koch, a lobbyist and executive director of the Louisiana Craft Brewers Guild.

Despite confusion over the rule’s meaning, Louisiana breweries have so far complied and have not had to close, he said.

At issue was whether the 25% rule applied to all beer sales or taproom beer sales, Koch said. Breweries with a manufacturer’s permit often sell beer from taprooms, but that is only part of their overall sales. Ultimately, breweries can offer food sales up to 25% of their total beer sales.

“While we don’t completely agree with the advisory opinion we are encouraged that there is something in writing on craft breweries,” Koch said.

While unhappy with the regulation, Koch said breweries are dealing with it and continue to grow. Louisiana has one of the smallest craft beer markets in the country, with only 30 breweries, ranking the state 48th nationally in per capita breweries.

But the number of breweries has more than doubled since 2012, Koch said, and several have popped up this year. Dozens more are in planning stages.

Koch and others in the industry also successfully killed a bill in the Legislature this year that would have prohibited beer companies from licensing with universities—like LSU and Tin Roof Brewing Company’s agreement to sell LSU-branded “Bayou Bengal” beer.

—Sam Karlin

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