State Rep. Colleen Garry has sponsored a bill requiring restaurants to list the percentage of alcohol in the beers they serve on menus.
The bill language reads: “An Act for all licensees for beer to be drunk on the premises must list the alcohol by volume for each beer selection on the menu.”
The proposed legislation was inspired by the experience of Dracut resident Christine DiLorenzo, who shared a statement at a hearing last Monday at the Statehouse. About a year ago, DiLorenzo said she went to a Dracut restaurant with her husband, Ryan Johnson. She declined to say the name of the establishment, but recalled having two glasses of the same kind of beer from Victory Brewing Company. She said there was no information available on how much alcohol each glass had.
“That night, after dinner, thank God I wasn’t driving,” said DiLorenzo, 33. “They really hit me harder than a normal beer would.”
On their way back home, DiLorenzo said she researched the beer and learned it had 9 percent alcohol by volume. Her thoughts quickly turned to how dangerous that could be.
“What happens if I was the one driving and thought I was OK?” DiLorenzo said. “One glass had 9 percent, that’s the scary part. If you’re out having a good night, you want to know what you’re drinking. Why not have it on the menu?”
DiLorenzo said she doesn’t blame the restaurant and acknowledged that many already share the information.
“As a consumer, you want to make a good decision,” she said. “Knowing no one wants to drink and drive, if you happen to go to a place like we did that doesn’t post this, you don’t have the necessary information to make a good decision.”
Garry said people these days are commonly drinking beers with a much higher alcohol by volume without realizing it. She said she thinks restaurants could place the information on menus so people know the situation “they’re entering into.”
“I think it’s an important public-safety issue,” she said Tuesday.
The bill is still in the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, Garry added.
Steve Clark, vice president of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said he saw the bill.
“Our first concern is that it applies equally (to businesses),” he said. “Another concern is, a lot of restaurants are already doing this.”
Clark said that in most places he has been to with a robust draft-beer offering, the information is already on the menus.
The MRA provides access, influence and protection to restaurant professionals, allowing for the ultimate opportunity to lead thriving businesses, according to its website. Clark on Tuesday said the organization has not yet taken a position on Garry’s bill.
“We would want to learn more about it,” he said. “What is defined as a menu? Whenever you get into labeling requirements, the question goes to what exactly constitutes a menu. Is it needed? A lot of restaurants have already gone down this path.”
Harry Gorman, who owns Owen & Ollie’s in Dracut with his wife, Mary Kay Gorman, said he thinks the bill is a great idea.
“We already do it at our place,” Gorman said. “Every draft beer that you want to order — we have 24 of them — all have the alcohol by volume so you know exactly how strong it is. I think it’s important.”
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