meadery 082021SPRINGFIELD – A newly signed law sponsored by State Senator Bill Cunningham will make it easier for small breweries, meaderies, and winemakers to sell their products at local grocery and liquor stores, reaching customers more easily.

“Local craft breweries, wineries, and meaderies have become very popular, and their customers would like to be able to buy their products at local grocery stores,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest suburbs. “Our system was not set up for small producers, which is why we need this change.”

The law allows these businesses to distribute their products to local bars, grocery stores, and liquor stores directly rather than through a third party. Under current Illinois law, most companies that produce alcohol have to sell their products to local grocery and liquor stores through a third-party distributor. Tracing back to the post-prohibition era, this setup is meant to help prevent the unregulated sale of alcohol and aid in the collection of alcohol-related taxes. It is still employed by almost every state in the U.S.

While this system is not difficult to navigate for large companies, small breweries and wineries sometimes find it hard to get their products into local stores where demand is greatest. By allowing small breweries and wineries to self-distribute, they can reach more local customers more easily. Once the companies reach a specified sales threshold, they will still have to use the third-party distribution system.

“We saw bars and restaurants struggle to stay open during the pandemic, and local breweries and meaderies faced the same challenges,” Cunningham said. “Making it easier for them to sell their products in local stores will help them stay in business for years to come.”

The district Cunningham represents includes Horse Thief Hollow brewpub, Open Outcry Brewing Company, and Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.

Most provisions of the law, originally House Bill 2620, take effect immediately.