On December 22, 2017, in one of the fastest-moving pieces of legislation to come across a President’s desk, President Trump signed into law a bill generally known as the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” The Act will undoubtedly affect most individuals and businesses beginning with the 2018 tax year. Verrill Dana’s Tax Practice has prepared a comprehensive client advisory highlighting many of the major tax reform changes, including the numerous changes to how beer, wine and distilled spirits are taxed. These particular changes related to the beverage industry are only effective for the 2018 and 2019 tax years. (more…)
This spring, the craft brewing community will take over America’s Music City for the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America®, presented by the Brewers Association, from April 30 to May 3. Joining them at this year’s conference is Verrill Dana’s own Jonathan Dunitz who will co-present, “From 1 Barrel to 1,000: Managing Risk from Start-Up to Rapid Growth,” with GHM Insurance Agency’s James Sanborn, Macpage’s Brad Weller, and Maine Beer Company’s Daniel Kleban.
Americans are increasingly sensitive to the ingredients that go into the food that we eat. Recently, Congress passed a law requiring manufacturers to label or place QR codes on products containing or made from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). Now, consumer advocates have turned their attention to food products bearing the word “natural,” raising legal risks for all food manufacturers who label products with that term.
Unlike many terms pertaining to food, such as “light/lite,” “low calorie,” “fat free,” and “reduced sodium,” the Food and Drug Administration (the “FDA”) does not officially define the term “natural.” Instead, the FDA has a longstanding, but nonbinding policy regarding the use of “natural” in human food labeling. Specifically, the FDA considers “natural” to mean “that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.” (more…)
In an article for Craft Brewing Business, Lawyers on Tap attorney Jonathan Dunitz discusses how an improperly cleaned tap line can lead to not only serious lifelong health problems for the beer drinker, but also a significant verdict against the establishment who served the beer and its vendor. The $750,000 verdict outlined in the article should be an eye opener for any establishment with tap lines, whether the cleaning is done in-house or contracted to an outside vendor. A proactive risk management plan is a great way to keep your customers and employees safe, at a cost far less expensive than the cost of defending a case and paying a settlement of jury verdict. From flushing the lines with water to testing the tap with a pH strip, be sure to develop thorough protocols and checklists. Equally as important are getting vendors on the same page and ensuring you have adequate insurance to cover a loss if it does occur. (more…)
Changes in the shipping routes have placed Maine businesses on the doorstep of the Arctic and Northern Europe. Thanks to the addition of Eimskip, it now costs less to ship a container to Norway than it does to truck it to Maryland. On Thursday, October 19, 2017 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Verrill Dana’s North Atlantic & Artic Group will host a full day seminar exploring how businesses can take advantage of these opportunities. (more…)
In a special three-part miniseries for the Verrill Voices podcast, attorney Jonathan Dunitz discusses risk management for breweries and brewpubs with a successful brewery owner, a leading insurance agent in the craft beverage industry, and an experienced corporate attorney. The podcast series takes owners of new and growing breweries through various considerations focused on limiting their risk exposure. In the first episode, Jonathan and Rising Tide Brewing Company founder Heather Sanborn discuss how policies, checklists and best practices should be implemented to reduce exposure to risk that could threaten the brewery. In the second episode, Jonathan and James Sanborn, insurance agent and manager of GHM Insurance’s Craft Beverage Program, discuss insurance, and the unique coverage needs of brewery owners to mitigate the specific kinds of risk impacting them and their business. The final episode, featuring Jonathan and fellow Verrill Dana attorney Mark Googins, focuses on the ways in which contracts may shift risk among parties doing business together. (more…)
Few brewers would dream of serving someone in their brewery or tasting room without checking an ID to ensure that all the craft beer lovers in the room are of legal drinking age. When it comes to their virtual breweries and tasting rooms, however, there appears to be a bit of laxness in ensuring that everyone is age appropriate. The problem with ignoring the age of virtual visitors is that Marketing and Advertising Codes issued by industry associations require age gates for websites and on social media. Age gates are also recommended by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”).
Most craft breweries have age gates on their websites, but many are ineffective and fail to meet the Marketing and Advertising Code or the FTC’s recommendations. There are, with some variations, three basic types of age gates for websites. First, there are what I would call passive age gates. These simply state that by viewing the website the viewer agrees or acknowledges that he or she is 21 or older. It is often at the bottom of the page or another location where it is easily missed or ignored. Second, are age gates that require some interaction, but nothing more than a simple click. These have a popup or landing page that ask whether the viewer is at least 21, requiring the user to click on “yes” or “no” to enter the website. Obviously, if the viewer wants to get into the website, he or she will click yes regardless of age. Third, are age gates that actually require the underage user to do some math to gain entry. While a diligent viewer will figure it out, these age gates require a bit more of the user than simply opening the webpage or clicking “yes.” Instead, the user is required to enter his or her date of birth – and that date of birth must be at least 21 years earlier – before gaining access to the website. (more…)
After traveling to Iceland with more than a dozen of Maine’s brewers to greet the Maine Beer Box at the Bjorfestival in Reykijavik, Verrill Dana Attorney Tawny Alvarez reflected on the importance of standing out in a global marketplace in an article for the Craft Brand & Marketing Magazine. Within the article, Tawny touches upon the ever-expanding dilemma between differentiating your brewery in a growing marketplace and adhering to regulations and increased limitations on label images. While they can create hurdles, regulations shouldn’t stop breweries from thinking global or expanding their geographic reach. Tawny explains how the Maine Brewers Guild’s Maine Beer Box is a great example of an organization in the brewing community that thought (in and) out of the box to share Maine’s craft breweries with the people of Iceland. What creative avenues can your brewery can tap into to help stand out in the growing craft brewing community? (more…)
With an alphabet soup of corporate structures available to U.S. businesses (think C-corp, S-corp, LLC, LLP, etc.) you might guess that creating another would be the last thing on the minds of new business owners. However, the success of socially mindful entrepreneurs and companies that boast both profit and positive social impact has increased interest in prioritizing social issues in addition to shareholder returns.
One recent incarnation of this concept is the benefit corporation. The term “benefit corporation” is a distinct type of legal entity and is not to be confused with the term “B-corp” which refers to a certification from the nonprofit “B Lab.” That certification is akin to Fair Trade certification as it imposes non-legal obligations that companies pledge to uphold in exchange for “B-corp” status awarded by B Lab. (more…)
As the number of craft breweries across the country continues to grow, Verrill Dana’s Breweries, Distilleries & Wineries Group presents Tap Tips Podcast Miniseries to help brewers on the journey from passion to profit.
The miniseries contains eight episodes to assist up-and-coming brewmasters and brewery owners to think critically about the issues affecting their business. These podcasts provide information and practical tips for navigating the various complex issues that may arise at any stage, from business formation to licensing to risk management. (more…)