Bottoms up: Booze bills moving in House – Florida Politics

Bottoms up: Booze bills moving in House

alcoholic beverages

A trio of alcoholic beverage-related bills moved through a House panel Tuesday:

— Beer advertisements in theme parks would be allowed under a bill approved by the Careers and Competition Subcommittee.

That measure (HB 669) was approved 13-2, with chair Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican, and Rep. Larry Ahern, a Seminole Republican, casting ‘no’ votes.

This is the second year the bill’s been up before lawmakers. It stoked controversy last year: Critics said it would allow theme parks to “extort” ad dollars from beer companies and ultimately favor Big Beer manufacturers who can pay to put up the biggest and most ads.

They also could sponsor concerts. other events or attractions at parks. It’s supported by SeaWorld and Universal Orlando and opposed by beer distributors and the state’s craft beer industry.

The House bill heads to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 822) has cleared one of its three committees.

— Legislation that would allow beer distributors to give away for free glasses imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants was narrowly OK’d. Under current law, glasses must be sold. 

The subcommittee cleared that bill (HB 961) on an 8-7 vote. This also is the second year this bill has been before lawmakers.

Those in favor, including small businesses, say it’ll be a help to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Opponents, including many craft brewers, counter that they won’t be able to afford to keep up with the stream of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the makers of Bud Light and Stella Artois.

Josh Aubuchon, general counsel for the Florida Brewers Guild, the craft beer industry’s trade group, told panel members many of his members sell their product only in kegs, not bottles or cans. Because branded glasses effectively act as passive advertisements for a particular label, he worried that bars would push out craft beers on tap in favor of Big Beer’s offerings.

This year’s House bill, carried by Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters, would limit “the total pieces of glassware, per licensed premises, (to) 15 cases per calendar year.” That’s about 360 glasses.

“Branded glassware … is intended to be used only to serve consumers the brand advertised on the glassware,” the bill summary says. The measure also would expire in June 2021 unless renewed by legislators.

The bill now moves to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 1224) by Appropriations chair Rob Bradley has cleared two panels and will next be considered by his committee.

— A bill that would expressly allow Floridians to use a smartphone app to order alcoholic beverages to be delivered also cleared the subcommittee.

The panel OK’d the measure (HB 667) on a 13-2 vote. Republican Reps. Ben Albritton of Wauchula and Julio Gonzalez of Venice opposed it.

Services with apps such as Drizly and Shipt already deliver in the state, but “current law does not address orders received via the internet or other electronic forms of communication,” a staff analysis says.

The bill, carried by Miami Republican Daniel Perez, is supported by retail and restaurant groups, and by Target. The House measure now heads to the Commerce Committee; a Senate companion (SB 1020) sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young has cleared two of its three committees unanimously.

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
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