Lazy Horse Brewing of Ohiowa concerned over possible tax increase on Nebraska’s craft beer

OHIOWA, NE - Lazy Horse Brewing and Winery sits 2.5 south of Ohiowa in southern Fillmore County. It opened in August 2016, and is owned by Jim Stutzman and his wife, Julie "Customers come from all over the place," Stutzman said. "We've had people from 17 different countries, all 50 states. All over Nebraska." Lazy Horse is one of over 50 craft breweries operating across the state. They’ve been celebrated as success stories, but proposed legislation in the Nebraska Unicameral could change that. State senators Tom Briese of Albion and Curt Friesen of Henderson have included excise tax increases on beer, wine and liquor in legislative bills 314 and 497. "I understand (senators) have to deal with property taxes, but you can't solve one problem by creating another," Stutzman said. "There's got to be a better way than this." The idea behind raising taxes on alcohol is property tax relief. Senators Briese and Friesen estimate this tax on alcohol could generate $121 million annually to offset property taxes. Stutzman, like many farmers, feels the burden of property tax. He hopes not to absorb more loss from a tax hike on his breweries’ products. [caption id="attachment_1830659" align="alignleft" width="313"] Kegs inside Lazy Horse Brewing.[/caption] "This is a business that runs on a lot smaller margins than people think," Stutzman said. "(This legislation) will cause some serious damage. This year, we paid $10,000 in excise tax. That would increase to around $50,000 if any of these pass. Lazy Horse currently employs 14 other people on either a semi-full or part-time basis. Those 14 would likely no longer get paid if the proposed legislation is passed. Stutzman already dedicates about 70 hours a week to his breweries' operation, while his wife pitches in 40 when she's not caring for the couple's two children. "My wife and I would just have to work more hours to keep things going." If the alcohol tax increase passed, Nebraska’s beer tax would climb from $0.31 to $1.38 per gallon - a 345 percent increase. $1.38 per gallon would be the highest beer tax in the nation. Stutzman says he and other local brewers will go to the state capitol to testify if need be. "Craft beer is a unique place where it brings a lot of unique people together," Stutzman said, "and we really don't want to see that hurt." You can follow Tommy on Twitter @Tommy_NCN.