Booze News: Party Bikes in Rhode Island, Hard Seltzer in Utah
In states across the country, liquor laws are evolving. Though some states are embracing the need to alleviate the crushing regulatory burden faced by producers, sellers, and consumers alike, they’re moving too slowly—while others are moving in the wrong direction entirely.
In Rhode Island, for example, lawmakers are considering legalizing party bikes—those oversized bicycles for a dozen or so pedalers that often feature a bartender or travel from bar to bar. (They’re not too dissimilar from Nashville’s party buses, which I wrote about last year.) That’s great news for a local motel owner in Misquamicut who spent $30,000 on a party bike his town had greenlighted, only to be “thwarted” by the state’s motor vehicle department.
“The party bike couldn’t use public streets without a license, but they had no license to give it,” the Providence Journal reported this week. “It is too large to be considered a bicycle and too slow to qualify as a motor vehicle.”
In Alaska, state lawmakers are pursuing “a wholesale rewrite of the state’s alcohol laws,” local station KTUU reported last month. One key element of the proposed overhaul results from the so-called “bar wars” that have pitted bar owners in the state against brewers and distillers that operate tasting rooms in Alaska.
The bar owners want the state government to protect them from competition from tasting rooms. They’re clearly in the wrong. The government shouldn’t protect any business from competition. But, wrong as the bar and restaurant lobby is in this case, it’s also powerful. Hence, the proposed “wholesale rewrite” as it applies to tasting rooms—which includes underwhelming improvements such as allowing them to stay open until 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and allowing no more than one new tasting room in communities with at least 12,000 residents—would likely come closer to maintaining the status quo than it would to improving the regulatory climate for producers and consumers in the state. That’s one reason, no doubt, that supporters of the bill refer to it as a “grand” or “delicate” compromise.
Some other changes to state booze laws are also pedestrian at best. In New York, for example, state liq
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