Dana Young is introducing new legislation to give small craft breweries the ability to move product through other craft breweries.
But the “Big Beer” industry in Tallahassee is already expressing concerns about SB 554, the Senate proposal filed Thursday by the Republican from Tampa.
The bill allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year, and does not currently have agreements with distributors, to move its product to other Florida craft breweries.
“I am proud to sponsor SB 554 and continue to be an advocate for our state’s craft brewers,” Young said. “We want to see the craft beer industry continue their trend of record growth and this bill will help new brewers get their beer to market faster. I look forward to working with the bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, my colleagues in the Senate, and members of the Florida House to provide a regulatory structure that encourages craft brewers to grow.”
In the summer of 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law allowing craft breweries to finally sell beer in 64-ounce containers known as “growlers.” Until then, Florida (bizarrely) was one of the few states in the nation that didn’t legally sanction such growlers.
But a key part of that legislation allowed craft breweries to ship its product to affiliated locations, up to eight in the state.
That represented a small chip in the “three-tier” alcohol beverage regulation system, which has historically given distributors exclusive power to move beer from manufacturers to the retailer. Passage of the 2015 bill lifted a requirement that those breweries operate as tourist attractions — otherwise known as the “Busch Gardens” exception, named after the Tampa amusement park (then owned by Anheuser-Busch). It allowed them to serve beer at its theme park’s hospitality centers.
That bill maintained that all other alcoholic beverage products (beer, wine and cider) had to go through a distributor.
Young’s new legislation would permit craft breweries (currently without distribution agreements) to send its product to unaffiliated brewers, as well as restaurants and other retail outlets, another potential crack in the three-tier system.
While most craft breweries in Florida generally have distribution agreements, Young’s bill would allow new breweries to have an ability to move product without having to go through a distributor.
“It’s troubling,” says Florida Beer Wholesaler Association executive director Mitch Rubin, “because it upset the balance of the 2015 law.”