A bill that would make it easier for nonprofit organizations across Alabama to get licensed to sell alcohol at fundraising events is currently in a Senate committee, after passage in the House.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Craig Ford, I-Gadsden, would establish a nonprofit special events retail license for the sale of beer, wine and liquor.
Heather New, president of The Chamber of Gadsden & Etowah County, said when a nonprofit plans a fundraising event, such as an auction or dinner, it currently has to seek the same kind of license a business would to sell alcohol.
New said The Chamber held a roundtable discussion with business representatives last year about beverage licensing to clarify some issues. The question of nonprofit event licensing was raised, and that led to a roundtable discussion with nonprofit representatives and Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board field agents. They discussed the need to simplify the process for both nonprofits and for ABC agents.
“I started working on a bill,” she said, that would eliminate that complicated process for nonprofits, and Ford and Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, said they would help with its passage.
New talked with ABC Board Governmental Relations Manager Dean Argo about simplifying the process, and learned changes could benefit both nonprofits and the board’s field agents — lessening the time they had to spend dealing with approving and granting such licenses.
The change is not one that would increase access to alcohol, New said. Rather, it would give more supervision of alcohol consumption than there is at a bring-your-own-bottle event — the avenue some nonprofits have taken for events.
“With BYOB events, there’s no control over the kind of alcohol people consume,” New said, and there’s no way to monitor the amount of alcohol someone is consuming because organizers might not come into contact with each person at an event.
If people are coming up to a vendor to buy beverages, that level of contact and oversight is more likely.
Ford’s bill states that applications must be applied for 25 days before an event, giving the date, time and event location. A copy of a letter notifying local governing officials of the event is required, and the board may ask for additional information.
Organizations must be an approved tax exempt nonprofit that has been in continuous existence for three years prior to the application, affiliated with a parent organization in existence in the state for at least three years or that has been reorganized and is continuing its mission under a new name on file with the secretary of state, and with a new tax identification number after having met the three-year requirement.
Qualifying organizations will be not be required to provide evidence of liquor liability insurance, and nonlicensed people can donate beer wine or liquor for an event.
New said it’s her hope that the bill will soon be out of committee. If that happens, it is likely to come up for a vote on the Senate floor next week, possibly on Tuesday.
“It’s not a controversial bill,” she said, and she hopes that will hasten its passage.
“Our Leadership Etowah class will be in Montgomery March 20 and March 21,” New said, visiting the Legislature. “It would be just wonderful for them to get to see legislature passed that came from our area.
“They could see how the legislative process works when you get engaged and involved,” she said.