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Ballard’s brewing community express concern about proposed beer tax

Posted by Danielle Anthony-Goodwin on April 18th, 2013

Many of Ballard’s beloved small breweries are concerned about the impact of Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed beer tax currently being considered by the Washington State Legislature.

Local brewers report that the proposed excise tax will likely send some out of business. Brewer Amy Besunder from Populuxe Brewing shared her concern with us. “My partners and I opened Populuxe Brewing on March 8th of this year with the hope of being able to grow a small business in a sector we are passionate about. The increased excise taxes which are being proposed would mean an even greater challenge for us not just to grow, but just to keep the doors open,” says Besunder.

Governor Inslee’s proposal would extend and expand the 2010 excise tax on breweries. The initial 2010 tax, which is set to end in June,  only affected breweries producing more than 60,000 barrels per year. However, this new incarnation of the tax would remove the exemption on smaller breweries, affecting all breweries in the state in Ballard and beyond.

To get some context on the beer tax situation it is important to note, with numbers from the Brewer’s Association, that before the 2010 beer tax was introduced small brewers paid $4.78 per barrel and big brewers paid $8.08. In 2010, small brewers were exempt from an increase, however, big brewers were taxed an additional $15.50, bringing their tax total per barrel up to $23.58.

If the new tax is approved this would not only extend and possibly increase the tax for large breweries but it would also lift the exemption on the “little-guys” like Ballard nano-brewery Populuxe. The brewery produces roughly 9 barrels of beer per month which translates to about 3 kegs of beer each time they brew. Currently Populuxe, and other Ballard nano-breweries, are paying the above mentioned tax for small brewers which could be raised by $15.50 to $20.28 per barrel if the Washington State Legislature approve the tax.

If the tax is introduced that could spell the end for many Ballard breweries who contribute much to both our local community and economy. “Like so many of our comrades in beer, Populuxe opened in a small industrial space that sat empty for years. In opening, we’ve provided income to our landlords, local jobs, and foot traffic to underused areas, but also places where families and friends can gather,” says Besunder.

Our news partners The Seattle Times reported similar concern from Justin Gerardy of “pico-brewery” Standard Brewing. Gerardy started up his brewery just last month in downtown Seattle and is worried about the tax increase. He told the Seattle Times, “taxes are a part of business, but I really believe in giving people a chance to get started before you hit them too hard. This is like it’s designed to knock my legs out from under me before I can stand.”

Tomorrow, members of Washington’s beer community, including many from Ballard, will meet in the State’s Capitol Olympia at 12 p.m. to protest the beer tax. If you want more information about taking part click here to see the Facebook event page.

“We need people to write their legislators and attend this rally,” says Besunder.

Photo courtesy of Populuxe Brewing. Image courtesy of Defend Washington Beer.

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