I call myself a “Beer Lawyer” because it captures my interest concisely and lends to easier marketing efforts. But my practice is really about bringing together the various aspects of the law that converge on the small business owner in the alcohol business. There are many legal nuances specific to the alcohol production and sales business that are unique. This niche regularly touches on all of these topics:
- corporate formation and fund-raising
- contracts and leases
- employment issues
- trademark and intellectual property
- licensing and permitting (federal permits, local alcohol regulatory body, etc.)
- franchise law aspects (governing distribution rights)
- zoning and land use
- labeling and food/health regulations
Those substantive areas are each interesting and challenging, but the complexity increases when you look at how they interact with one another.
For example, I have a client that’s starting a brewery. They want to serve their beer and local wine in a tap room and to sell beer to local restaurants. The checklist starts building in my mind: at least two different ABC permits, a federal brewing permit, maybe a distribution contract, label approval at the federal and state level, probably leased space with construction up-fit contracts, and ensuring that the business/beer name doesn’t violate the trademark rights of the more than 2,500 other small breweries in the United States.
Craft beer, breweries, and other alcohol beverage clients make up about 40 percent of my business. I aim to grow that over time with a marketing and branding strategy. To that end, I maintain a web and social media presence, participate with industry trade groups, advertise on industry-specific websites, and seek opportunities to present at industry seminars.
Sometimes the financial rewards aren’t that great. Nevertheless, because these are start-up operations, I enjoy the work by helping someone get his or her dream off the ground. Fringe benefits like that, and working in an industry I love more than make up for the financial issues. And, from time to time, I get to sample some really good beer.