Proposed Alabama beer rule prompts privacy concerns

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s alcohol regulators want to know who is buying beer from one of the state’s craft breweries and taking it home to drink.

The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is considering a new rule that would require brewers to collect the name, address, age and phone number from anyone who purchases beer at a brewery for off-premise consumption.

Industry groups are crying foul over the proposed regulation, which they say is an invasion of privacy. They also say it would be a logistical nightmare to collect the information.

“As nonsensical as it might seem, this rule would essentially empower the ABC Board to come to an individual’s house to confirm his or her purchase of a six pack of beer,” said a statement by Nick Hudson of Free The Hops, a group that has campaigned to increase craft brewing to the conservative, Bible Belt state.

In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, shoppers search for their favorite beers at Hop City Craft Beer and Wine in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama's alcohol regulators want the name, address, age and phone number of everyone who buys beer in one of the state's craft breweries and takes it home to drink, a move that is raising concerns about privacy. he Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is considering a new rule that would require brewers to collect the personal information of anyone who purchases beer at a brewery for off-premise consumption. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, shoppers search for their favorite beers at Hop City Craft Beer and Wine in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama’s alcohol regulators want the name, address, age and phone number of everyone who buys beer in one of the state’s craft breweries and takes it home to drink, a move that is raising concerns about privacy. The Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is considering a new rule that would require brewers to collect the personal information of anyone who purchases beer at a brewery for off-premise consumption. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The Alabama Brewers Guild, composed of the state’s roughly two dozen breweries and brewpubs, said collecting the information would be an administrative nightmare and could pose concerns not just over privacy but also about potential data breaches and governmental use of the information.

“I’m honestly not sure they thought it out very well,” said Guild executive director Dan Roberts.

The ABC hasn’t publicly explained why it wants detailed personal information about beer purchasers, and officials did not return a message seeking comment on reasons for the rule, which will be considered by the board on Sept. 28.

Roberts said the agency told him the information would be used to verify enforcement of the state’s 288-ounce limit on the amount of brew anyone can purchase at one time. Breweries would have to come up with a way to gather the information and deal with customers who don’t want such information in the government’s hands.

“It’s a huge deal logistically. Also, there are purchasers who just won’t do it. They’d go to Publix instead of buying at a brewery,” he said.

The proposed rule follows a law that took effect June 1 allowing the state’s craft breweries to sell six packs, large bottles and other containers of beer directly to consumers, subject to a limit on quantity.

While Alabama and other states require identification to prove the age of someone purchasing alcohol, Roberts said he knows of no other state that collects information about consumers.

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