Representative Roger Hagan won’t be taking up the charge against Montana’s brewery taprooms again when the Montana Legislature next convenes on January 5, 2015. Rep. Hagan lost his reelection bid Tuesday in the Republican primary election to challenger Randy Pinocci by a vote of 834-620.
Hagen sponsored a bill during the 2013 Montana legislative many observers dubbed the “brewery killing bill.” The bill would have placed significant restrictions on the total volume a brewery could serve for on-premise consumption, ultimately forcing a brewery to obtain distribution channels and curb on-premise sales.
A provision allowing breweries to purchase on-premise licenses to operate as bars would have immediately benefited some breweries. Its long-term effects, however, would forever change many of the things which allow Montana’s smaller breweries to be successful in spite of rather restrictive regulations.
A political observer familiar with the Cascade County election notes the brewery bill was not a campaign issue and was not a factor in Rep. Hagan’s loss. Rather, questions about Hagan’s actual legal residency appeared to have a significant effect. Hagan was also hit hard with dark money mailers from the Montana Family Foundation and two anonymous organizations.
What does this mean? Nothing much other than Hagan won’t be the face of any similar effort in 2015. His defeat does take away a bit of intrigue for the November election. The Republican candidate’s opponent will be Evan Bowser, owner of Bowser Brewing in Great Falls. Evan was the only Democrat in the primary election and filed, in part, because he did not want Hagan’s efforts to go unchallenged.