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Major beer wholesaler buys local unit serving Sonoma, Marin counties to add to its California portfolio

Illinois-based Reyes Beer Division has increased its size in California, attracting concern among smaller wholesalers and craft breweries.|

Reyes Beer Division has announced it is buying the local unit of Columbia Distributing that represents Sonoma and Marin counties as the nation’s largest beer wholesaler continues to grow its portfolio in California.

The Illinois-based Reyes said late Monday that it would buy the local business from Columbia of Portland, Oregon with the deal scheduled to close on June 10.

A purchase price was not disclosed for the unit, which has 1,350 customers and delivers 4 million cases with brands including Molson Coors, Lagunitas, Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam. The unit will operate under Reyes’ Golden Brands subsidiary.

There are 125 employees who work at the unit based in Santa Rosa.

Tom Day, chief executive officer for Reyes Beer Division, said he does not expect any layoffs given the demand for labor in the industry.

“We need everybody,” Day said.

Chris Steffanci, CEO of Columbia Distributing, said his company decided to focus more on the Pacific Northwest and sell the unit it had bought in 2015.

The sale marks the first local purchase by Reyes, which has rapidly grown in the Golden State in recent years. Those deals also have attracted concern among smaller wholesalers and craft breweries worrying about the concentration Reyes has in the state with 25 facilities.

The California Family Beer Distributors, a state trade group, contends as of last year Reyes dominates the California industry with more than a 55% market share from 17 mergers and acquisitions. The local beer wholesale industry has two other main distributors ― Morris Distributing of Petaluma and Eagle Distribution Co. of Santa Rosa ― that are much smaller, as well as family-operated, that will now compete with Reyes.

The deal made sense for Reyes as the North Bay was a “white space” for the company and that Columbia had grown the business over the last five years to make it an attractive purchase, Day said. “It was a natural fit for us,” he said.

Day also said the company faces much competition in the industry, from behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev to Stone Brewing Co., the large craft brewer that also has a distribution arm, to Republic National Distributing Co., which is a large wholesaler in the wine and spirits industry.

“There are many choices out there for brands and retailers, and for quite frankly from a brand standpoint, consumers,” he said.

Reyes had been involved in a lawsuit with Seismic Brewing Co. of Santa Rosa, which was originally triggered over a contract dispute with DBI Beverage. A Reyes subsidiary named Harbor Distributing had bought DBI in 2019.

Seismic in its litigation filed a cross complaint against Reyes and its various subsidiaries alleging anti-competitive practices. A state judge on April 8 dismissed such claims against Harbor and Reyes.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5233 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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