It appears it may be a while before Bell’s Brewery beers come back to Virginia.
Premium Distributors of Virginia and Loveland Distributing Co. this month filed their opposition to Bell’s petition for appeal in Richmond Circuit Court.
It marks the latest step in a legal saga over the distribution rights to Bell’s beer in Richmond and across Virginia – and the legal wrangling looks to be far from over.
Filings have stated that “not only is this case not fully resolved, it is nowhere close to being resolved.”
The squabble began last October when Premium, a subsidiary of industry giant Reyes Beer Division, agreed to terms to acquire locally based Loveland in a deal that would have handed over the rights to sell Bell’s beer in Virginia.
However, Bell’s didn’t approve of the transfer of its distribution rights and claimed that the distributors didn’t provide specific information about the deal to them when requested. Shortly after, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based brewery halted shipments of all of its beer, including its popular Two Hearted Ale, to Richmond and Virginia as a whole.
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Authority was overseeing the matter and initially ordered that the parties settle it through arbitration in May.
But in July, the ABC issued an order that stated it doesn’t have the authority to compel arbitration and that only courts have such power.
Bell’s, which wants to settle the matter in arbitration, appealed that order in late August. Doing so sent the case into Richmond Circuit Court.
Now Loveland and Premium are opposing Bell’s appeal, claiming it “is improper under the Virginia Administrative Process Act.”
The distributors are asking the court to dismiss the appeal and “allow the case to proceed to a final determination in accordance with the procedures of the Beer Franchise Act and VAPA.”
That would mean letting it be heard once again by the ABC.
Loveland and Premium are represented by Kevin McNally and Walter Marston of Marston & McNally. In an email Thursday, McNally said it’s the policy of their firm and of their clients to not discuss pending litigation.
Bell’s is represented by Thomas Lisk and Chad Kurtz of Cozen O’Connor, who were not available for comment.
On Sept. 19, the Virginia ABC filed nearly 1,500 pages of records consisting of emails and letters between the parties, and transcripts of its board hearings on the matter. Assistant Attorney General James Flaherty also entered the case on the ABC’s behalf on Sept. 19.