I always get asked if Dry County Brewing Company is actually in a Dry County. Based on current political events, I am tempted to start saying yes.
I have been purposefully slow in crafting Dry County’s response to the Department of Revenue’s September 25th policy bulletin, which in effect redefines and nullifies many of the “improvements” that SB63 (passed into law earlier this year) was intended to provide to local craft breweries. Our measured response has in part been because the sentences and sentiments that would have been posted in the hours and days immediately following the bulletin, while warranted, would not have been appropriate for public consumption. But, more importantly, I also wanted to first observe the response of the more established local breweries that I respect and that have inspired Dry County Brewing Company to the point we are today.
Most of those local breweries have now weighed in on the bulletin, with indefinite and financially costly suspension of to-go tour options being the collective short term response and a growing number of breweries reigniting discussions of moving or expanding out of state as a more permanent solution. While financially costly for the breweries of Georgia, both of these results are also extremely unfortunate for the passionate consumers of the state (myself included). For Dry County Brewing Company, even with our tasting room still months away, the impacts of this bulletin are also extremely real and immediate.
Through many months of meetings, reviews, and paperwork, the mutual respect between Dry County Brewing Company and the City of Kennesaw resulted in financial incentives from the City to ensure Dry County Brewing Company could more easily navigate the red tape involved in starting any business and successfully come to market in Kennesaw. That is why I was not at all surprised by the call I received last week from the City inquiring if the bulletin would be impacting Dry County Brewing Company in any way. The incentives offered by local governments are in no way a handout; the receiving business has obligations to uphold including capital investments and jobs creation. As you would imagine, the level of these obligations for Dry County were mutually agreed upon based on financial forecasts built with the underlying assumptions that breweries were able to offer customers various tour options and prices, a practice allowed by SB63, and a practice that the DoR bulletin puts in severe jeopardy. To put it simply: those planned jobs, and in turn Dry County’s incentive package, are in doubt as a direct result of the September 25th bulletin.
So, while I answered the City in the affirmative that both Dry County and the City are financially impacted, I also reassured the City that the overall timeline and vision for Dry County Brewing Company was unchanged. No financial analysis in the world would tell you to choose Georgia as the state in which to open a brewery in the first place. You can move your business two hours in any direction and end up in a state with regulatory environments that provide exponentially higher cash flows, ROIs, EBITDAs- whatever financial metric you want to throw at your excel spreadsheet; it will be higher in a state whose laws are not signed in Atlanta. Because of this fact, a deep personal connection to the state of Georgia is the only legitimate reason someone would be crazy enough to open a brewery here, pre or post SB63, pre or post the DoR’s decision.
The connections to Georgia, and to Kennesaw, that existed pre-SB63 and pre-DoR bulletin, are just as strong for myself and Dry County Brewing Company today. So, while I fully understand and fully support craft breweries making their stand by looking at investing elsewhere, and while I believe it will take several respected (and tax dollar generating) breweries leaving the state before the magnitude of the situation is grasped, I also want to be clear: Dry County Brewing Company will make its stand by digging in deeper here in Georgia, fighting for common sense reform in Georgia, and brewing as much great beer as Georgia can drink along the way.
Georgia is our home. Even if sometimes it feels like we are all living in one large Dry County.