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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Liquor laws a hot topic

MILTON -- The approved expansion of Dogfish Head Brewery last month was the latest in a series of decisions by local and state legislatures that have gone the way of makers and sellers of alcoholic beverages in Delaware.
Just weeks earlier, a bill was introduced in the state legislature to allow concert halls -- venues that hold at least 600 patrons and host at least 250 live music events a year -- to serve liquor in the entire building, including patios.
These developments are coinciding with the approaching 10-year anniversary of the state's decision to allow beer, wine and spirits to be sold between noon and 8 p.m. Sundays.
Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, attributes the change to the initiative of Dogfish Head's founder, Sam Calagione, who has helped usher in the craft beer revolution in Delaware.
"Craft beer has brought hundreds of jobs and dollars into the state," he said. "There seems to be a big following across the country for these small breweries to become established, and it's been really beneficial to Delaware."
Dogfish Head, 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown and Evolution Craft Brewing in Delmar have spearheaded the craft beer explosion in the county -- though Evolution will be moving its brewery to Salisbury soon -- but the growing industry hasn't necessarily led to a more liberal attitude toward liquor laws in general.
Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, said he hasn't heard any support for changes to state liquor laws.
"I have had no constituents at all contact me about any of the liquor laws," he said. He didn't support a special exception for the Queen Theater in Wilmington to serve alcohol under the proposed concert hall license because he said it didn't affect his district.
Bill Subrick, manager at Atlantic Liquors in Rehoboth Beach, said the craft beer movement hasn't translated to a change in attitude, just more craft beer fans.
"I wouldn't say attitudes have changed, I haven't noticed that's the case," he said. "There's a lot of beer heads out there, that has been growing quite a bit. It feels like we can't bring in enough variety."

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