BOZEMAN – Montana brewers want state lawmakers to shift taproom hours so microbreweries can serve until 10 p.m.
Currently taprooms can operate between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. A bill to be sponsored by Republican Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish would shift the hours to noon to 10 p.m.
“It gives brewers a better schedule to operate under,” said Tony Herbert, executive director of the Brewers Association. “We expect we can be a little more profitable by being able to stay open later.”
Backers also said the change would reflect the inclinations of customers.
“In Montana, in the summers — which is a primary driver for beer — it doesn’t even get dark until 11 (p.m.),” said Zinke. “Shifting the hours, without increasing them, I think is appropriate.”
Montana has 27 microbreweries, and Zinke said changing the hours could help what he said is an emerging industry.
“This session is really about jobs and the economy,” Zinke said. “I think whatever the Legislature can do to promote local jobs and reasonable regulation is to the benefit of us all.”
About 700 people have signed the association’s petition to support the measure, Herbert said.
It’s unclear how tavern owners might react if the bill is sponsored. Tavern owners could face additional competition from taprooms that don’t need expensive cabaret or liquor licenses.
Zinke, as part of his argument, noted that Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, was a supporter of beer.
“Even Franklin recognized that better beer was good policy,” Zinke said.
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