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Beer cooler bill returns; passes Missouri House

Budvar beer, in the Czech Republic
Budvar beer, in the Czech Republic

The battle over cold beer sales in Missouri is heating up again.

On March 3, the state Senate narrowly passed legislation to allow beer companies to lease portable refrigerators to grocers and convenience stores. It would also allow those same stores to sell beer in reusable containers, commonly known as growlers.

After two House committee votes later that month, Senate Bill 919 sat inactive for most of April, until Thursday, when it was added onto a wine industry bill and passed.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, says it'll give retailers more options to move their products.

"You take the cooler (and) you might want to put some chips around it; you might want to put something in there for Cinco de Mayo next week," Shaul said. "The retailer should be able to put whatever they want in it, and they should be able to lease a cooler from whoever they want as well."

Opponents argue that big beer companies would insist on their products being placed in the portable fridges at the expense of smaller craft brewers.

"I have some small craft brewers and micro-breweries in my district," said Rep. Keith Frederick R-Rolla. "The feedback I'm getting is that this really is not a level playing field."

Frederick said that major brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Miller will have a distinct advantage with point-of-sale advertising.

"The big guys will get (advertising) for free," he said. "The advertising can be placed conspicuously on the cooler, so the coolers for the big guys are going to have all this great promotional materials for their products."

The amended bill now goes back to the Senate.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.