A number of bills filed in the New Hampshire legislature for the 2024 session would chip away at the strict regulation on alcohol sales. The state government’s ‘Liquor Commission’ generally regulates all sales of alcohol, and the government itself operates 82 liquor stores throughout the state. Legislators have proposed a few bills that would make it easier for small businesses to serve their customers without running afoul of the law.
Proposed by a Republican, HB1076 would seemingly allow a wine manufacturer licensee to hold an on-premises license on the premises of the wine manufacturer facility or on the premises of the wine manufacturer retail outlet.
Due to New Hampshire’s peculiar laws regarding licenses to serve alcohol, it is easier for restaurants to obtain the licenses, but they must sell freshly prepared hot meals to enjoy the best opportunity to serve various forms of alcohol at their venues. Currently, the state law defines “Full course meal” and “Full service restaurant” with relatively high standards. Nine legislators proposed HB1540 to broaden those definitions, making it easier for restaurants to serve beer without being punished by the government.
Five legislators proposed HB1334, which would make it legal for a licensed seller of beer to refill a customer’s refillable container regardless of the branding on it. Don’t ask why this is currently illegal. But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this bill in years past, meaning that it has failed to pass before.
Current state law states that “No junk or scrap metal dealer licensed by a governing body under the authority of this chapter shall purchase any metal keg for malt beverages…or pieces of such metal keg, unless the seller is the brewer whose name or marking appears on the keg. If the brewer’s name or marking has been removed or obliterated, the licensee shall not purchase the keg.” Three Representatives proposed HB1321 to repeal the penalty for this dastardly crime.
One Representative proposed HB1374 to make it substantially easier for restaurants to serve alcohol to their customers without breaking the law. Specifically, it would lower the threshold for the percentage of sales coming from food from 50% to 15%. Currently, stores that sell alcohol have to prove to the government that at least half their revenue is from food sales. This would radically diminish that burden. The bill also provides that “Restaurants with annual food sales of at least $75,000 shall be exempt from the 15 percent requirement.” The bill also lowers the mandatory threshold for dining room availability, stating that the “…dining room shall be open for business at least [
5] 3 days a week for evening meals, unless the commission has granted an exemption.”
One Representative proposed HB1380, which would seemingly allow the holder of a brew pub license to obtain an on-premise or off-premises license as long as: “The brew pub licensee does not hold any other type of manufacturing license under this title; and an on-premises or off-premises licensee holding 2 or more brew pub licenses shall not sell more than 5,000 barrels of beer or cider to any New Hampshire licensed retailer.”
While these bills would modestly improve the ridiculous restrictions surrounding alcohol in the ‘live free or die’ state, they fail to address the government’s most tyrannical policies. State law currently forbids any advertising for alcohol on billboards. The NH Liquor Commission has been on a rampage of blocking beer can labels for being too fun. These are the issues that need to be addressed by pro-liberty lawmakers. Until then, forgive me if I don’t jump with joy.
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