A bill that craft-beer breweries view as an affront to their growing industry gained final approval in the Florida Senate Tuesday.
The brewers like the part of the bill that would allow them to fill 64-ounce “growler” jugs of beer for customers to take home with them, but they dislike the part that would cap the amount of bottled or canned beer beermakers who brew more than 2,000 kegs – or 1,000 barrels – could sell to take-home customers.
Those who brew beyond the 2,000-keg limit only could sell up to another 20 percent of their product in cans, bottles or kegs. Any more than that, they would have to market through distributors.
The bill would also would limit keg sales to one per person per day.Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, sponsored the proposed legislation (SB 1714) backed by beer distributors and retailers.
“I am afraid this industry is working in a lot of ambiguity, and I don’t want a growing industry in the state of Florida working in an area that is not clear,” Stargel said. “This bill does not punish you for your success."
Stargel said she was no enemy of craft brewers, and in fact enjoys Florida Cracker ale made by Tampa-based Cigar City Brewing, but the growing businesses simply needs to operate under the same regulatory rules that already apply to larger companies.
Several opposing senators lamented imposing a clamp down on a skyrocketing industry.
“The sad fact of it is that it’s going to stifle an industry that’s been growing in Florida,” Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said in ardent opposition. “It’s an attack on an industry to protect another group of businesses that are the distributors.”
Estimated total sales for the industry stood at $69.1 million for 2012, Latavala said, and created 633 full-time and 275 part-time jobs.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, joined Latvala in calling for defeat of the bill.
“Florida is not a job-killer state,” she said. “Florida is a job-producer state.”
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, said he agreed with the need for regulation.
“When we’re getting to the 2,000-keg mark and we’re getting beyond that, we’re not dealing with a mom-and-pop shop anymore,” he said. “I do think craft breweries do need to be regulated, it’s just a matter of how much.”
Stargel said craft brewers have been resistant to any change whatsoever and had failed to communicate with her over the proposed legislation.
“Craft breweries have been absent from the conversation,” she said. “They’re not talking to me because they don’t want a bill.”
The bill passed by a 30-10 vote. The House has not yet heard the bill.