Craft distillers in Massachusetts are asking Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders to make changes they say would give them a "fighting chance to survive the current economic crisis."
In an online petition, the Massachusetts Distillers Alliance asked for Massachusetts officials to take steps similar to those made in a handful of other states — California, New York, Washington, Kentucky and Virginia — to aid independent distilleries that, like many other businesses, are struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.
"We pay over two and a half times the rate of excise tax per proof gallon paid by brewers," the alliance's board wrote. "Yet during these challenging times, when greater latitude is being extended to restaurants, breweries, wineries, and others, our businesses remain bound by rules and laws that put us at great financial risk. We have a significant struggle ahead, and so we ask you to consider three relatively modest changes to help us successfully weather this crisis."
Some, like Short Path Distillery in Everett and GrandTen Distilling in South Boston, have begun making and selling hand sanitizer to help ease shortages. In a letter to Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka, the board asked for Massachusetts excise tax relief on alcohol used in the formulation of hand sanitizer.
With restaurants unable to serve spirits and tasting rooms closed, distilleries are losing 75% or more of their revenue, the letter said.
The board also asked the officials to allow direct shipping of Massachusetts-distilled spirits to in-state addresses via third party carriers, and to expand the recent law allowing restaurants to sell beer and wine to-go by also including cocktails sold in secure vessels and sealed in plastic bags.
There are at least 18 craft distillers in Massachusetts, according to a Department of Agricultural Resources list.