Commonsense bill enhances consumer choice, supports tens of thousands of Texas businesses

AUSTIN  – The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) testified before the Texas House Licensing and Administration Committee today in favor of HB 2200 which would allow spirits ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) to be sold in grocery and convenience stores where beer- and wine-based counterparts with the same alcohol content are already being sold.

Dale Szyndrowski, DISCUS lobbyist and Texas resident, noted in his testimony that relegating spirits RTDs to liquor stores only when other alcohol products with the exact same alcohol content are allowed in grocery and convenience stores puts these products and spirits consumers at an extreme disadvantage in Texas.

“Spirits RTDs are only available in 10 percent of the number of outlets where similar malt- and wine-based RTDs are sold even though they have the same alcohol content,” Szyndrowski stated in his testimony. “That is anti-free market and anti-Texas values. Further, it puts Texas behind much of the country with 29 states already allowing spirits RTDs to be sold in grocery and convenience stores.”

During his testimony, Szydrowkski showed three products to the committee: a sugar-based RTD at 8% ABV; a malt-based RTD at 5% ABV; and a spirits-based RTD at 4.5% ABV. He then pointed out that the product with the least amount of alcohol was the only one prohibited from being sold in grocery and convenience stores.

“Remember, alcohol is alcohol,” Szyndrowski said. “It makes no difference if it is made from fermented sugar, malted barley, wine or grain spirits. It’s not the type of alcohol you drink, simply how much alcohol you drink.”

In his testimony, Szyndrowski also hit back on opponents of the legislation noting their only motivation was preserving their own market advantages.

“HB 2200 is about allowing the free market to work and giving consumers equal access to similar products,” Szyndrowski said.  “The organizations that oppose this bill oppose it simply to keep out competition, to restrict consumer access and to give their business model a government-protected, competitive advantage.”

The proposed bill, introduced by Representative Justin Holland, would allow spirits-based RTDs with no greater than 17% alcohol-by-volume (ABV) to be sold where similar beer and wine products are already sold in Texas, including grocery and convenience stores. Companion legislation, SB 1288, has also been introduced by Senator Kelly Hancock.

In additional materials submitted to the committee, Szyndrowski pointed out the distilled spirits industry is a significant driver of economic activity in Texas, contributing to the vibrancy of the manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and agriculture industries.

“There are currently 92,000 jobs in the state supported by the spirits industry, generating more than $9.6 billion in state economic activity each year,” Szyndrowski said.  “A recent report showed distillery tourism produced $715 million in total economic impact, supporting 6,200 jobs and generating $35.9 million in state and local tax revenue.”

Texas is one of many states taking a closer look at this issue to ensure that producers of spirits-based RTDs and consumers of these products are being treated fairly, recognizing that treating beverages differently based on the myth that some alcohol is “softer” than others sends a dangerous message to consumers.