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Illinois craft beer advocates say industry continues to thrive



The Illinois craft brewery industry expects to see continued growth for locally brewed libations.

Nationally, the Brewers Association said in 2017 there were more than 6,300 breweries in the U.S. Small and independent craft brewers represent 12.7 percent of market share by volume. While there was a 1 percent drop in total beer production, the association said craft beer production increased 5 percent.

“The number of craft breweries in Illinois has skyrocketed more than 350 percent” in five years, Illinois Craft Brewers Guild Executive Director Danielle D’Alessandro said in a statement.

In 2016, the guild said Illinois craft brewers had an estimated $2.6 billion economic impact, supporting 16,000 jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality and tourism. The guild also said craft brewers drive traffic to local businesses and restaurants.

While some might think the craft industry is close to a saturation point, D’Alessandro said it continues to grow in Illinois.

“What we’re going to continue to see is a lot of these small breweries that are opening up that are focused on their taproom, on bringing people into the taproom, sharing their story, getting out to some of the local bars and retail stores and really being a part of the communities,” D’Alessandro said.

She estimates Illinois will see two-dozen new craft breweries open in the next year.

As to the challenges for Illinois’ craft brewery industry, the guild doesn’t see that coming from the big brewers, distributors or retailers looking to protect their turf.

D’Alessandro said the guild does what it can to work with big brewers, distributors and retailers to bring balance in the industry. She said the guild is constantly monitoring legislation in Illinois that could curb the rights of craft brewers.

“It’s imperative on us then to try and work together and find a compromise that we’re all happy with,” D’Alessandro said.

Last year, a measure supported by the guild to allow 170 craft breweries to apply for special use permits so they could set up at farmers markets, street festivals or other special events stalled in committee after opposition from distributors and retailers associations.

Despite that, D’Alessandro said the major challenge is the changing taste of consumers.

“One, you just have to have good beer,” she said. “Then, two, to be able to tell a story and three to really be able to share that story through good marketing and good advertising.”

The Illinois guild announced Craft Beer Week for May 18-25 with events all across the state.


Article by Greg Bishop of the Illinois News Network, for more INN News visit

Illinois News Network, publisher of, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.


More Toys “R” Us Closures Expected



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Retail giant Toys “R” Us is expected to close many of its locations as early as next week. The struggling business has had trouble competing with big-box stores including Walmart, as well as with online sales from websites such as Amazon. Another hurdle for them has been declining demand for traditional toys as more children plug into electronics.

Founded in 1948, Toys “R” Us grew in popularity, eventually opening up locations in several countries and starting the offshoots, Babies “R” Us and Kids “R” Us. Toys “R” Us accounts for a large part of U.S. toy sales — 15-20% last year, according to Jefferies analyst, Stephanie Wissink. She predicts that business will not shift entirely to other sources and that total sales could decline by as much as 15%.

Investors noticed and reacted negatively. The stock prices of two large toy manufacturers, Hasbro and Mattel, fell on Friday.

The upcoming closures were not unforeseeable. Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2017.

The exact number of closures is still unknown, but it could be more than 200.

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Dispensary owner says Medical pot for pain would be better quality of life than opioid addiction



Chris Stone, CEO of Springfield and Collinsville medical cannabis dispensary HCI Alternatives

Opioid overdoses killed more than 1,900 people in Illinois in 2016 alone, and the Illinois Senate is moving closer to allowing medical marijuana to be used for conditions that opioids are prescribed for as a way to help curb the alarming trend. Supporters are confident the votes are there to make it happen.

A Senate committee passed Senate Bill 336 out of committee Wednesday with only Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, voting no.

The proposal would add “any other medical condition for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed by a physician based on generally accepted standards of care” to the list of debilitating medical conditions allowed in the state’s Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.

There are 40 different conditions currently on the list, such as cancer, fibromyalgia and others.

“While recognizing the importance of addressing the opioid crisis,” a statement from Brady’s office said, “Leader Brady’s vote was reflective of the concerns raised by the Illinois Department of Public Health on the legislation in its current form.”

IDPH said in a statement the measure is too broad.

“IDPH would be forced to make a judgement on what could be prescribed by a physician, for which there is no clear physician-based, generally accepted standard of care for prescribing opioids,” IDPH said. “ This would also expand the list of qualifying conditions to include anything for which an opioid has been or could be prescribed, such as a sprained ankle, pain after a fall, or having a tooth pulled.”

Chris Stone, who owns medical cannabis dispensary HCI Alternative with operations in Springfield and Collinsville, said opening medical pot up to those who are prescribed opioids to relieve pain offers another option for patients in pain. He said opioids may relieve pain, but they diminish patients’ quality of life.

“Having an option that is going to be less corrosive to your body, that’s going to allow you to function, should be made available to these patients,” Stone said.

He said it’s unclear what the governor’s stance is on the issue, but he thinks the votes are there.

“I think it’s going to get enough support in both chambers,” Stone said, “but the governor is going to have to make a decision as to whether he’s going to support it or not support it based on a supermajority.”

If both the Senate and the House approved the measure and Rauner decided to veto it, it would take a supermajority of votes in the two chambers to override.

IDPH also worried about having a short time frame to approve a potential flood of new applicants to the program if the proposal were to be approved, causing backlogs because of staffing and resource limitations.

“Without a major infusion of staff and resources, IDPH would not be able to manage this volume of applications,” a statement said. “This 14 day timeline would also move those individuals applying as an alternative to opioids, ahead of individuals who are applying for one of the approved conditions, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.”

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, Illinois Family Institute and Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems all oppose the measure.

The Marijuana Policy Project supports the proposal and said the bill “would also take the sensible step of removing the requirement that medical cannabis patients submit fingerprints, provided they qualify under the new provisions.”

“It is a huge first step for the many Illinoisans suffering unbearable pain every day,” MPP’s Chris Lindsay said.

A judge in January ordered the state to add intractable pain as a qualifying condition, something added by the now-defunct Illinois Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. But the state’s public health department plans to appeal the ruling, which will delay its implementation.

The medical cannabis pilot program expires in 2020.


Article By Greg Bishop. For more Illinois News Network content, visit


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While Illinois gains 7,700 manufacturing jobs in 2017, group says trends elsewhere raise alarm



The most recent Illinois jobs report showed Illinois gained thousands of manufacturing jobs, but that trails in comparison to trends in neighboring states.

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Vice President Mark Denzler said it’s good news that Illinois added 7,700 manufacturing jobs in 2017.

“However, it’s unfortunate news for the tens of thousands of Illinoisans that should have manufacturing jobs, but those jobs have gone elsewhere,” Denzler said. “They haven’t located in the state of Illinois.”

Denzler said manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs that are going to other states. While Denzler didn’t have the most recent numbers of other states’ gains, he said the trends raise an alarm.

“When you go back from June of 2009 to October of 2017, the neighboring states that touch Illinois have added 505,000 jobs,” Denzler said. “They’ve added half a million jobs. Illinois has added 3,600 [in that time frame].”

State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, applauded last week’s announcement that Carl Buddig & Co. is purchasing the former Butterball plant in Montgomery, but he said more can be done to attract more manufacturers, such as lowering workers’ compensation costs.

“We are one of the most expensive states in the country and we’re miles ahead, unfortunately in the wrong direction, for work comp costs compared to our neighboring states,” Wheeler said.

To attract more manufacturers, Wheeler said Illinois also needs to lower its income tax, which increased last summer over the governor’s veto.

“We’ve taken the one thing … we were kind of the leader on in the Midwest, … income tax rates, and now we are not,” Wheeler said. “We don’t have that advantage like we had before.”

Lawmakers increased the state’s corporate income tax rates from 5.25 to 7 percent this summer (33 percent hike), alongside increasing the individual rate from 3.75 to 4.95 percent (32 percent).

Wheeler also said Illinois needs to lower its highest-in-the-nation property taxes to be more competitive with neighboring states.

“Property taxes are a set cost to a business, compared to an income tax where you only pay that tax if you make a profit,” Wheeler said. “Property taxes you pay whether or not you make a profit. So you have to take that into account when you evaluate whether or not Illinois is a great place to make that investment.”


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