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Battle over beer business continues in Ohio

The battle over Ohio’s beer business continues to brew in Columbus.

State Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, on Wednesday introduced another bill to block brewers from buying beer distributorships, even though lawmakers just passed such a measure. This time around, Buchy wants an emergency clause attached to the bill so that no more deals can be struck between now and when the previous measure takes effect in late July.

The two beer bills have struck a nerve with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer.

“There has been no showing, in legislative hearings or anywhere else, that there is some kind of problem in the beer industry in Ohio that requires intrusion by the Ohio General Assembly. We urge the legislature to reject anti-competitive public policy,” the company said in a written statement.

Buchy says he is just trying to preserve Ohio’s three tier regulatory system for keeping brewers, distributors and retailers separate so no corporation gains a monopoly.

In April, Anheuser-Busch said it was blindsided by state lawmakers who amended a beer bill to prohibit breweries from buying wholesale distributorships in the future. Gov. John Kasich signed it into law.

In the meantime, the brewer struck a deal to buy a family-owned distributorship in Lima. It is unclear whether Buchy’s latest bill will block that sale from going through, although the lawmaker said the measure will simply prevent other deals from being made between now and July 30.

Gary Guagenti of C&G Distributing in Lima urged House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, to oppose any legislation that would block the sale of his business to Anheuser-Busch.

ABInBev runs the nation’s fourth largest brewery in Columbus and employs more than 700 workers in Ohio. It is unusual for a brewer to also own a wholesale distributorship but it has happened. For example, ABInBev has owned a wholesale operation in Canton since 1994.

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