Craft brewers react to Governor Justice’s proposed plan to eliminate state income tax

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COOL RIDGE, WV (WVNS) — Part of the Governor Jim Justice’s plan to eliminate the state’s personal income tax could impact breweries.

West Virginia Brewers currently pay a $5.50 tax on a 31-gallon barrel. Governor Justice’s proposed plan would raise that tax more than 400 percent.

Bill Heckel is the president and owner of Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company.

“It will literally drive every craft brewery out of business in the state of West Virginia,” Heckel said.

“It is a proverbial bat to the knees of the entire craft beverage industry,” Josh Bennett, owner of Hawk Knob Hard Cider, said.

Craft brewers said with this tax they see very few options for survival. They said many will close their doors or leave the state.

Matt Barnett is the owner of Sophisticated Hound Brewing Company.

“We’re not even competing with the current market now. We’re above the current market,” Barnett said. “There’s one state higher than us in the United States and that’s Alaska. Everybody around us pays two to three dollars a barrel while we pay five and now he wants to increase it to $29.25.”

But the worry is not completely about themselves, while the fear of losing their livelihood hangs over their heads; they said consumers will also be affected.

“No offense to other micro breweries, but say, Sierra Nevada that’s already a dollar less on the shelf, they’re going to be five dollars less on the shelf or more,” Heckel said. “We can’t compete with that.”

Craft brewers said their art brings out-of-state dollars into West Virginia. Many see thousands of people from out-of-state enjoy local breweries throughout the year.

“This is very disheartening to see the state do this to a burgeoning small business industry,” Bennett said. “Something that is really driving the revitalization and growth of our local economies. It’s mind-boggling.”

Brewery owners and staff are asking people to contact your representatives and voice your opposition to this proposed plan and keep West Virginia breweries open.

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