The United States District Court of Texas has ruled in favor of Jester King Brewing, and their 2 co-plaintiffs – Authentic Beverage Company and Zax Restaurant & Bar, filed against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
It was a 1st Amendment challenge – stating that labels in Texas have to have special labeling. Now, beer may be labeled as “beer” and “ale” as ale. TABC also prohibited breweries in the state from telling people where to buy the beer. Now Jester King can add a “Where To Buy” section to their website.
“In a remarkable (though logically dubious) demonstration of circular reasoning” Judge Sparks writes in his ruling, “TABC attempts to defend the constitutional legitimacy of the Code through an appeal to the statutory authority of the Code itself.” Referring to the required use of the terms “beer”, “ale”, and “malt liquor”, he writes “TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.’”
The judge did not rule on the on TABC’s treatment of Texas brewpubs and breweries. Jester King (among others) claim that the TABC v
We were disappointed, but not too surprised, that Judge Sparks ruled against our claims that Texas’s disparate treatment of breweries and brewpubs:
…violated the Equal Protection Clause and that its treatment of foreign breweries violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause. The TABC never gave any reason why Texas should be able to prohibit craft brewers from selling beer to customers on-site, while allowing wineries to do so, or why Texas should be able to favor foreign wineries over foreign breweries, and Judge Sparks did not speculate on why that might be. But the legal standards are different and more demanding for challenges brought under the Equal Protection Clause than the First Amendment, and we were unable to persuade Judge Sparks to strike down these discriminatory laws. We were encouraged, however, by Judge Sparks’s observation that “The State of Texas is lucky the burden of proof was on [the Plaintiffs] for many of its claims, or else the Alcoholic Beverage Code might have fared even worse than it has.”
A huge step forward for not only Jester King, but all breweries in the State Of Texas. Jester King will continue to push more “freeing” legislation during the 2013 session.