AS AN attorney who represents the western Massachusetts distributor against Opa Opa in a proceeding pending before the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, I was distressed to read the Globe’s misleading editorial encouraging lawmakers to support a bill that would change the long established relationships between brewers and distributors (“To help craft beers flourish, give brewers more freedom,” Feb. 20).
First, current law does not force craft brewers to stick only with their existing distributors. Craft brewers can use as many distributors as they desire. Further, Massachusetts craft brewers who hold a farmer-brewer license are also entitled to self-distribute. Opa Opa’s problem is not the current law, but contract law. Opa Opa signed an exclusive contract in which it agreed to give up its rights to use other distributors or self-distribute in exchange for benefits conferred by one distributor.
The editorial fails to note that current law provides craft brewers with a six-month “test period” to use a distributor and then abandon that distributor without consequence if the relationship is not working. Finally, current law allows any aggrieved craft brewer to petition the ABCC to terminate its current distributor if it can prove “good cause,” which is precisely what Opa Opa is doing.
Current law strikes a fair balance between the interests of craft brewers and distributors. Lawmakers would be better advised to more fully fund the ABCC, a well-run agency despite the Legislature’s chronic neglect of its needs.