A disagreement over beer distribution rights has officially spilled into the courtroom in Richmond.
Bell’s Brewery last week filed a petition for appeal against the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, Loveland Distributing Co. and Premium Distributors of Virginia in Richmond Circuit Court.
The filing was an expected next step after the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based brewery sent a notice of appeal to the ABC this month, effectively announcing its intentions to take the matter to court.
The dispute between Bell’s and Loveland started when the distributor agreed to be sold to Premium, which is a subsidiary of Reyes Beer Division, a giant of the industry.
Loveland sought to have Bell’s distribution rights transferred to Premium as part of the sale earlier this year, which couldn’t be done without Bell’s approval. Bell’s has withheld its approval because the distributors didn’t provide specifics about the sale when it asked for them. Bell’s then cut off its orders to Virginia, meaning bars and stores in the commonwealth don’t currently have a supply of the brewery’s beers, including its popular Two Hearted Ale.
The ABC initially ruled in May that Bell’s and Premium must settle the dispute through arbitration. Then in July, the ABC issued a remanding order stating that it doesn’t actually have the authority to compel arbitration. Bell’s has said repeatedly that it prefers to settle the matter through arbitration.
Bell’s is now appealing the remanding order, arguing in its circuit court petition that the arbitration order is not appealable. The brewery is requesting “the Court reverse and set aside the remand order,” reinstate the initial arbitration decision and award the brewery attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Judge Phillip L. Hairston is handling the case in Circuit Court. An initial hearing date for the matter has not been set.