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Glacier Distillery (copy)

Nic Lee, owner of Glacier Distillery in Coram, mixes yeast into a mash to produce a whiskey in this photograph from 2011.

A state lawmaker is proposing to increase the amount of liquor Montana’s micro distilleries can sell to individual customers each day.

House Bill 362 would allow distilleries to sell people four ounces of liquor to consume in-house and nine liters retail each business day. State law currently limits sales to no more than two ounces for in-house consumption and 1.75 liters retail per individual per business day.

Rep. Jim Hamilton, D-Bozeman, told the state House Business and Labor Committee on Wednesday that his sense of fairness was behind his involvement with the bill, which was developed in cooperation with the Montana Distillers Guild.

“This is another bill that asks you to move a small bit toward a future that embraces change as opposed to embracing the status quo or clinging to it,” Hamilton said. “It asks you to acknowledge that as existing business people or a new business person, we need to adapt what consumers are seeking.”

Americans for Prosperity and distillers from around the state appeared Wednesday to speak in favor of Hamilton’s bill.

“At any time we have at least seven different products on our shelf, and a 2-ounce limit restricts us from properly sampling out our lineup to interested consumers and interested visitors,” said Tyrrell Hibbard of Helena’s Gulch Distillers. “And a 1.75-liter limit of off-premise sales restrains us sometimes from fulfilling consumers’ purchasing requests.”

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The Montana Restaurant Association, Liquor Store Owners Association of Montana and Montana Tavern Association lined up against Hamilton’s bill.

Mark Lewis of Montana Spirits and Wine in Bozeman told the committee Hamilton’s bill picks "winners and losers" given current law allowing distilleries to serve drinks at lower prices than bars and restaurants.

“We want (Montana distilleries) to be successful. But at the same time, just like them, I struggle to make payroll on Fridays. We all do as … small business owners. And this is a little bit about which side you’re gonna pick in some respects,” Lewis said.

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