Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


July 23, 2020

Senate Passes Brewers Compromise

Legislation ends long-time dispute over distribution agreements

BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation that resolves a decade-long distribution dispute between brewers and wholesalers in the Commonwealth.

“Craft brewing is an industry that has grown in Massachusetts as a result of innovation, entrepreneurship, hard work and dedication to supporting small businesses, and is now thriving,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Solving this decade-long dispute was a priority of mine long before becoming Senate President and I look forward to seeing this important agreement codified in law. I would like to thank my colleagues Senators Paul Feeney, Joe Boncore and Cindy Creem for their efforts and the Massachusetts Brewers Guild and Beer Distributors of Massachusetts for their determination in reaching this landmark compromise.”

“I am pleased that the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would promote growth opportunities for craft brewers in the Second Essex District and across the Commonwealth by liberating them from onerous distribution restrictions,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I look forward to continuing to support small businesses that provide great jobs for Massachusetts residents and quality products for Massachusetts consumers.”

“The MBG is incredibly grateful for the support and leadership of Senate President Spilka in advocating for franchise law reform,” said Sam Hendler, President of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild and co-founder of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers. This agreement is a victory for the more than 200 craft breweries across Massachusetts that have become pillars of their communities, helping local economies to thrive and drawing tourism to new areas. It took the collective effort of our counterparts in the legislature, the brewing community and the wholesalers to ensure we are able to continue our work as craft brewers now and for years to come.”

“The Beer Distributors of Massachusetts are tremendously appreciative of the work, support, and leadership provided by Senate President Spilka in encouraging the Brewers Guild and the Beer Distributors to agree on franchise law reform that has been disputed for the past 10-years” said Joe Salois, owner & president of Atlas Distributing, Inc., Auburn, MA. “The efforts, leadership, and uncompromising willingness to reach agreement by the brewers, distributors, and legislature was a driving force in this achievement” said Salois.

The legislation, An Act Relative to Craft Brewers (S.2829), represents the agreement reached by The Massachusetts Brewers Guild, representing craft breweries, and the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts after good-faith negotiations encouraged by Spilka and her Senate colleagues.

“This bill will update our current franchise laws to reflect the modern marketplace, protect jobs and level the playing field for emerging brewers here in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.  “I applaud the spirit of compromise shown by brewers and distributors to get this done and reach agreement during this time of great uncertainty.  Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership and Senators Feeney, Boncore and others for their hard work to ensure we pass this legislation today.”

In Massachusetts, current law makes it difficult for a brewer to end a relationship with their distributor, jeopardizing potential growth. The compromise legislation (S.2829) would allow a brewery that produces less than 250,000 barrels (or just over 3.4 million cases) a year to end their relationship with a distributor with a 30-day notice and other certain protections. If a distribution contract is terminated, the brewery would be responsible for fairly compensating the wholesaler the fair market value of the distribution rights in addition to other costs for inventory and marketing investments. The legislation calls for both parties to engage in an expedited arbitration process to resolve such issues.

An Act Relative to Craft Brewers now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration.