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Growler Controversy a brewing…

I’ll be honest – the red tape surrounding growler sales in the DC Metro have frustrated me for quite some time. The recent decision to prohibit retailers from selling growlers in DC is a real shame and handcuffs local business owners, such as George Aguilar of D’Vines in Columbia Heights and  De Vinos in Adams Morgan. Washington City Paper Beer Blogger Tammy Tuck posts this morning:

On Saturday, an official from the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) told manager George Aguilar that the filling of sealed containers was permitted only for businesses with a manufacturer’s Class D license—not a retailer’s license. In addition to building a website to promote his growler program, Aguilar had plans to install additional draft lines in both locations. He will be able to continue using his current taps for tastings, but the 600 printed glass bottles he has coming in this week will have to sit in storage, at least for the time being.

“I’m not giving up on it yet,” he told me. “It’s been a beautiful thing. The support and demand has been really impressive. People seem to be into the environmentally friendly aspect of buying growlers. The prices are great but that part will probably be the biggest let down.”
Aguilar plans to get in contact with legal counsel to see what can be done to amend the licensing language for District retailers. “I am not sure how possible that will be. Perhaps I will try working with some type of environmental group. I haven’t really explored much into it yet,” Aguilar says.

In Virginia, growler laws are somewhat better, but still a bit puzzling. Virginia retailers must hold a Beer On and Off Premise licenses to sell growlers, and must sell $2,000 a month in food in order to get that license. This basically limits growler sells to grocery stores and restaurants, leaving small business owners no options to open beer-only venues.

In Maryland, you guessed it, it’s worse. Current law allows only brewpubs to sell growlers to go.
The DCBeer.com team is working to find more information about what is driving these changes, but we want to know how this change will affect your buying behavior. Will you go to VA or MD for growler fills instead, or will you just go to the DC Whole Foods? Will you stop buying growlers and stick to bottles / cans / your local watering hole?

To advocate for a change in the current law, or to draft a new one that allows businesses like D’vines to sell growlers, please contact the following DC City Councilmembers:

D’vines and D’vinos are in Ward 1, represented by Jim Graham on the council. You can contact him at jgraham@dccouncil.us and (202) 724-8181.

Harry Thomas, Jr., the Ward 5 councilmember who helped write the legislation allowing growler fills and tastings at DC Brau, which is in Ward 5, can be reached at hthomas@dccouncil.us and (202) 724-8028.

Tell us what you think in the comments selection below, or send us a tweet @dcbeer.

Note: Jake Berg also contributed to this article.

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