As seen in the San Diego Business Journal –
By JOHN COX
Originally published September 8, 2017 at 9:45 a.m., updated September 8, 2017 at 9:45 a.m.
San Diego — Not long ago a California craft brewer with more passion than business know-how opted to launch without the benefit of legal assistance, and ended up wasting $1,000 on a patent because — who knew? — federal law forbids printing the word “strong” on a beer label.
Another signed a lease without first having it reviewed by a lawyer, only to lose the location because the landlord had retained the right to raise rent during the term of the contract.
Other times the legal advice itself is the problem, said Candace Moon, a San Diego-based lawyer who
has gained national prominence as a specialist serving one of the region’s distinguishing industries.
She recalled a company that acquired and had transferred a state license for a brewery — but failed to
have the federal license transferred, too.
“Now they have six months’ downtime because their former attorney didn’t understand,” Moon said.
Regulatory Twists and Turns
It would be easy to blame the owners in an industry known for attracting hobbyists from outside the
business world. But it’s also the case that beer is among the nation’s most highly regulated industries,
with a multitude of complexities varying from state to state. And the field’s quick growth has meant
there just aren’t enough lawyers with the requisite level of specialization.
All of this has helped make Moon, 49, a superstar in her field.
She is on retainer for clients up and down the state, issuing regulatory updates by email on a regular
basis, and she speaks around the country about trademark and other legal issues. Moon and three of
her staff members recently joined a much larger firm, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, in a deal that gives her
nationwide resources and an opportunity to expand her practice to other states.
It’s all a little unexpected from a former Circuit City music buyer from the nation’s capital who wasn’t
sure she wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. Moon initially studied entertainment law and didn’t
care much for craft beer when she started bartending at hopping San Diego craft beer joint Hamiltons
Tavern during her first year of law school at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
Now, of course, it’s all about the beer. She admits it’s not saving lives, but when one of her clients
hosts an opening and the world gets to sample a new brew, she thinks to herself, “I helped bring really
good beer to the world.”
Moon is among the state’s top craft beer lawyers — a “household word” whose status as
a former pourer adds to her authenticity, said Tom McCormick, executive director of the California
Craft Brewers Association.
She advocates knowledgeably in an industry still struggling with a dearth of legal professionals, he
said. The shortage results mainly from craft beer’s quick growth, which he said California’s wine
industry didn’t have to cope with because a community of lawyers came up along with vineyards in
Trademark Is Biggest Issue
McCormick said trademark is the industry’s biggest legal issue, but that contracts with wholesalers
also require review by a lawyer. Some lawyers leave the business early, confounded by its
complexities; he recalled hosting a conference where a lawyer speaking at the podium, not Moon, was
found to have accidentally provided incorrect information.
Joe Leventhal, managing partner of the San Diego office of Cincinnati-based Dinsmore, said the firm
adds significant depth to its craft beer experience with the addition of a lawyer who has earned more
than 350 clients since starting her practice in 2009.
“There is no other attorney more knowledgeable or reputable in the craft beer industry than Candace
and she will be a tremendous asset for our beer, wine and spirits practice group as we grow our
capabilities in this market,” he said in a news release.
To client Stephanie Eppig, co-founder of San Diego’s Eppig Brewery, Moon is a protector who keeps
the company on the right side of the law in areas where laws can be easily overlooked, like social
media and charitable contributions. Moon offers guidance even in hazardous materials handling and
recycling filings, she said.
“It would be very easy to lose track of all the evolving laws and all the regulatory agencies without
(Moon’s) experienced guidance,” said Eppig, adding Moon came recommended by more than one
brewery, and that she continues to win praise among breweries.
Moon’s business strategy has been to serve breweries across the state, plus a handful of distilleries and
kombucha makers, as an outsourced legal advisor providing various services to multiple breweries.
It wasn’t a hard transition from her studies in entertainment law, which ended after her husband
rejected the idea of moving to Los Angeles. In law school, she had focused on business formations
and trademarks, and gradually picked up on manufacturing issues. Now she also deals in employment
law, beer franchising, licensing and compliance.
Because it’s a relatively closed field, she knows word will spread if she fails to deliver.
Going With Big Law
“If you do a good job they tell everyone,” she said. “If you do a bad job, they tell everyone.”
The idea of moving to Dinsmore was a little scary for Moon, in that she’s uncomfortable with the
thought of working for “big law.” But she said the transition, which took place in mid-August, gives
her greater “bandwidth,” with new associates in other states to help more clients.
Liz Zainasheff, vice president and co-owner of Fairfield-based Heretic Brewing Co., said Moon has
made a name for herself by quickly responding to calls for legal help. Heretic has continued to keep
Moon on retainer since the early days of her practice, and over the years Zainasheff and her husband
have become personal friends of Moon.
“We probably couldn’t have done it without her,” Zainasheff said.