FILE - Craft beer, distiller, brewer

Rep. Scott Simon's, R-Abita Springs, legislation that would allow craft breweries to host private events and serve catered alcohol won't pass this legislative session.

But Renee Amar, vice president of Government Affairs at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, said she's not done trying to get it passed. Arbitrary regulation hurts local businesses and stunts job growth, she said.

"We think [craft beer] could be a flourishing industry that could provide jobs for our citizens if the lawmakers and regulators would back off the industry," Amar said.

For example, the Abita brewery was restricted from hosting weddings at their facility, she said.

"We think that's a serious encroachment on the business," Amar said.

Legislation that would have eased restrictions died after the Beer Industry League of Louisiana lobbied against it.

Cary Koch, executive director of the Louisiana Craft Craft Brewers Guild, said they wouldn't stop fighting for craft breweries.

"This bill was a life raft to help the current operating breweries to stay in business," Koch said. "I hear every week from brewers that turned down another event because the client wanted to have a champagne toast."

Koch said these laws hurt small businesses.

"We're small businesses in our state, competing in a big beer world ... And we feel the effects by ranking 48th in the nation for breweries per capita and to make matters worse, we're closing at double the national average for craft brewery closure rates,” Koch said. “We are simply not taking care of the craft breweries in our state."

Adding opportunities for craft breweries, Koch said, would benefit customers, businesses and tax revenue.

"We'd like to see some real substantive change in the way our laws are written," Koch said. "We are pushing for a more pro-business, free enterprise market that gives brewers a fighting chance."

Koch said that Louisiana craft brewers compete with interstate breweries with fewer restrictions that lead to higher profits.

"We're not opposed to competition," Koch said. "We want to throw our hat in the ring and hopefully with hard work, determination, and great beer – we come out on top. But it's disheartening to see outside-the-state brands (from states with friendly craft beer laws) half as old as ours that are double the size, already expanding into the Louisiana market. We're sending money outside our state when we could be helping Louisiana brands more."

Koch explained that more favorable laws would drive Louisiana's long-term growth. Current laws ban self-distribution and require craft breweries to choose between bar or retail sales.

Local breweries employ 400 people (excluding distributors and retailers) and raise money for universities and athletic programs.

Koch said these restrictions plague breweries, whether three or 33 years old. He said legislators didn't work with them.

"It feels like even when the facts are shared, it's like no one is listening," Koch said. "There are options that have been on the table that legislators have seen that could help."

The Brewers Association ranks Louisiana in the bottom five states for friendliness to breweries.

Young entrepreneurs returned to Baton Rouge to start a Noble Wave Brewery. But they fled the state once they evaluated their investment, citing "Louisiana's uncompetitive legal and regulatory landscape for craft breweries," specifically the ban on distributing beer to retailers.

"We were not going to be well-served by opening in a place, like Louisiana, that forces us to forgo significant revenue options that would be available to us in other states," the owners said in a news release. "It just doesn't make sense to handcuff ourselves from a legal and financial standpoint."

Their business plan included providing full salaries and benefits to employees and donating 50 percent of tips to a companion nonprofit.

Instead, Noble Wave opened in Salem, Oregon, which has the "best-in-class regulatory environment", according to the businessmen.

The Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm, ranks Louisiana 43rd in most burdensome licensing laws.

For example, the entry barriers to open an interior design business are $1,240 in fees, six years of education and one exam.

Koch said he tinks new legislators will work with small business to catch the craft brewery wave sweeping the nation.

Koch said he believed craft breweries could create more favorable laws if they gained the support of businesses and craft beer lovers.

"We come to the Capitol year and call out for help," Koch said. "With no change to our situation, we are going to continue to return and push the envelope."