Unhappy with proposed legislation that would reduce taproom operating hours, among other changes, the Brewers Association of Maryland will hold a rally tonight at Key Brewing Co. in Dundalk.
A bill approved by the Maryland House of Delagates would allow breweries to sell directly to customers from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Depending on jurisdiction, breweries can currently operate until midnight or 2 a.m.
The legislation, which also would increase the amount of beer breweries can sell onsite in their taprooms, is now before the state Senate.
Mike McDonald, who co-owns Key Brewing Co. with Spike Owen, said the shorter operating hours would result in less revenue and fewer employees for Maryland breweries.
“It could have a fairly significant effect,” McDonald said of the bill. “The taproom does require a full-time person running that taproom. You have the part-time people that come in and pour beers and give tours.” Those jobs would be in danger if the bill is approved in its current form by the state Senate, he said.
The bill would allow taprooms to sell up to 2,000 barrels of beer annually, an increase from the current limit of 500 barrels. The change paves the way for a planned Guinness brewery to open in Relay.
Another element of the bill that concerns brewers is its restrictions on contract brewing and collaborations between breweries, two popular practices among Maryland craft brewers. The new legislation would require the beer sold in taprooms to be produced at the brewery.
Tonight’s rally, scheduled for 6 p.m.-9 p.m., is an opportunity to bring fans of local craft beer together and explain the bill's effects, McDonald said. The plan is to encourage visitors to email their state senators to express their disapproval of the bill’s current language, he said. Laptops will be on hand at the brewery.
Comptroller Peter Franchot, who opposes the bill, will attend the rally. He also plans to testify against the bill in its current form at a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Located at 2500 Grays Road, Key will also hold a free yoga session as part of the rally. The yoga class, which the brewery typically holds on Wednesday nights, exemplefies how craft breweries have created unique gathering places for their communities, McDonald said.
“The yoga is just to show the community that we brought something real and different and revitalizing to the Dundalk area,” he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.