Colorado Breweries Can Hold Frothier Festivals Under New Rules

A festival at Great Divide Brewing.EXPAND
A festival at Great Divide Brewing.
Brandon Marshall
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Beer festivals in Colorado may look a little different in the near future — and not just because of the changes that the pandemic has caused. Earlier this year, the Colorado General Assembly changed a law, giving breweries, along with other businesses like distilleries, hotels, casinos and restaurants, more freedom to host festivals outside of their places of business and to include other liquor manufacturers in the fun.

The new rules — introduced originally as 21-082 — will also allow breweries to take out a festival permit in their own name rather than in the name of a nonprofit organization, which was the previous mandate. The breweries can still donate money to nonprofits, but they can now organize, staff and run the festivals themselves. (Yes, beer festivals are definitely on their way back after more than a year of pandemic restrictions.)

In addition, the law, which previously applied only to wine makers, permits festival organizers to "engage in any retail operations authorized by" their existing licenses. Breweries will be able to offer packaged beer sales to go — meaning they can set up festival stores so that attendees can keep the party going at home.

"There has been a lot of interest in this over the past few years...a lot of questions from our members about how they might be able to do what wineries have been able to do," says Shawnee Adelson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, which lobbied hard for the change.

The Hooplagers Festival at Wibby Brewing.EXPAND
The Hooplagers Festival at Wibby Brewing.
Brewtography Project

As an example of what the changes might look like, Adelson pointed to the upcoming Big Queer Beer Fest that Goldspot Brewing is hosting at its brewery on Sunday with beer from at least a dozen other breweries. The new rules would allow Goldspot to hold the festival at a park, for instance, which would be helpful, since Goldspot's location is tiny. The brewery could also sell some of the limited beers from the fest in cans to go.

Since most breweries use events to help raise money to donate to nonprofits anyway, that could increase the amount they are able to give — and without the liquor license liability resting on the nonprofit's shoulders.

A brewpub, on the other hand, could organize an off-site festival that includes not just breweries, but wineries and distilleries, since brewpubs are allowed by their existing licenses to serve beer, wine and spirits.

This really raises a brewery's "ability to have meaningful events," Adelson says.

The WeldWerks Invitational.
The WeldWerks Invitational.
Jonathan Shikes

The Colorado Brewers Guild also helped push for three other legislative changes that Adelson says will, "without a doubt...help breweries rebuild and recover more quickly from the pandemic.” They are:

HB21-1263: Meeting and Events Incentive Program
"The program was created to help rebuild Colorado’s once burgeoning event economy," the Guild says. "The program allows for rebates of up to 10 percent of the hard costs of an eligible event that brings in twenty five paid overnight stays between July 1, 2021, and December 31, 2022. The program may also offer rebates of up to twenty five percent for COVID-19-related costs, which are hard costs that are directly related to complying with public health orders or other mandates issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If brewery events and anniversaries meet the twenty five paid overnight threshold, they can qualify to apply for these rebates."

HB21-1265: Qualified Retailer Retain Sales Tax For Assistance
"This bill was passed to help rebuild Colorado’s hospitality industry by allowing qualified retailers to retain sales tax collected as assistance for lost revenue as a result of the economic disruptions due to the presence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Colorado. Brewery taprooms and brew pubs are qualified retailers and will be able to retain a portion of their sales tax collected in June, July and August."

HB21-1027: Continued Alcohol Beverage Takeout and Delivery
"This bill allows certain licensed establishments, including brew pubs, to continue to offer alcohol beverages for takeout and delivery for four more years."

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