Florida bars and restaurants could be gifted with free branded beer glasses under a bill that’s now ready for the House floor.
The legislation (HB 853) was OK’d Wednesday morning with no debate by the Commerce Committee, its last panel of reference, on a largely party-line vote.
It would allow distributors to give to bars and restaurants up to three cases per year of glasses from brewers that are imprinted with beer names and logos. Now, glasses have to be sold.
The measure has stoked controversy, however. Smaller craft brewers have said they can’t afford to keep up with what will likely be a flood of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light.
Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida, which represents MillerCoors distributors, told lawmakers he was still concerned of a linkage between beer glasses and which beers would be available.
“It’s going to hurt (smaller) brewers in favor of the largest brewer in the world,” he said, referring to Anheuser-Busch. Its lobbyist had previously referred to the bill as “brewer-agnostic.”
Mitch Rubin, head of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents Anheuser-Busch distributors, also remained opposed.
He said the idea of “glasses for taps” is still “inextricably bound” even though the bill now says free glasses can’t be used “as an inducement to (a) retailer to purchase or use” specific brands.
The Senate version (SB 1040) has only one more committee to clear before it can be heard on the floor.