When I have questions about big cases, I reach out to the person I know can explain the legalese of the alcohol industry — Matthew McLaughlin. Three examples: Stone Brewing’s copyright lawsuit against MillerCoors, Founder Brewing’s high-profile racial discrimination lawsuit and Three Floyds’ and Abnormal’s unique trademark dispute.
McLaughlin is 15-year alcohol regulatory attorney vet, executive director of the Mississippi Brewers Guild and 2017 winner of the FX Matt Defense of the Industry Award by the Brewers Association. McLaughlin’s firm, McLaughlin, PC, specializes in representing clients in regulated industries, with a big focus on indie beer operations. The firm has worked with over 200 breweries and distilleries throughout the Southeastern United States, serves as outside general counsel to more than two dozen breweries, and has served as led or co-counsel in $10 billion in equity and debt financings.
“We serve as outside general counsel to alcohol beverage manufacturers handling everything from licensing and regulatory, distribution and franchise laws, corporate and finance, intellectual property, and labor and employment,” McLaughlin explained. “And, unlike a lot of lawyers that have recently gravitated towards this industry, we have worked in the craft beer industry for over 15 years.”
McLaughlin offers some of his firm’s expertise:
Corporate and transactional
Choosing the correct business entity and implementing a regulatory compliant corporate structure is critical for companies in the craft beer industry. We counsel clients on business strategy and planning, assembling the founding management team, selecting and forming the appropriate business entity and raising necessary capital from investors to support and accelerate the growth of a brewery.
Craft beer is a highly regulated product at the federal, state, and local level. At the federal level, the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935 and associated regulations impose a series of licensing, labeling, formulation and advertising requirements on craft breweries and craft distilleries. At the state level, each state individually regulates the distribution and sale of beer and spirits as well as associated trade practices, through a combination of licensing, direct control, excise taxes and “tied house” prohibitions and limitations. We ensure our clients understand these issues and more importantly have developed working relationships with regulators at the federal and state level.
There is a tremendous amount of value in a craft brewery’s story, identity, recipes, logos and overall brand. We advise clients throughout the brand creation and brand protection process to mitigate the likelihood of infringement and increase the likelihood of trademark registration, all while ensuring compliance with specific state and federal alcohol regulatory restrictions.
Manufacturing and distribution
A craft brewery may have the greatest liquid in the world, but if it cannot get the product manufactured and to market, it is worthless. We work with craft breweries on the development a manufacturing and distribution strategy and the regulatory framework that governs both processes. We regularly draft, review, and negotiate brewing and distilling service agreements, alternating proprietorship arrangements, distribution agreements, and vendor and purchase agreements.
Real estate/ land use/ zoning/ environmental
Knowledge of and compliance with state and municipal land use and zoning regulations is critical when establishing a brewery or brew pub. We assist clients in preparing to appear before planning and zoning boards about land use, zoning and environmental matters. We also help clients negotiate real estate purchase agreements and brewery or distillery specific leases.
Surf over to McLaughlin’s Craft Brewery and Distillery page to learn more — things about employment litigation, expansion strategies, public policy and lots more legal nuggets they’d love to help you out with.