Drinking, advertising—and ‘extortion’? Beer bill back for 2018


Legislation that critics said would allow theme parks to “extort” advertising dollars from beer companies has been re-filed for the 2018 Legislative Session.

The bills (HB 775, SB 822), filed by Republicans Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud and Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, generally would allow “cooperative” advertising in theme parks.

Hutson, chair of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, sponsored the language in the previous Session. At the time, he said Florida would be the fifth state to allow beer ads in theme parks if the measures passed. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Both bills now include this language: “Within 10 days after the execution of such agreement, the vendor files with the (state) a description of the agreement which includes the location, dates, and the name of the manufacturer or importer that entered into the agreement.”

Last year’s measures grew contentious, however, when beer industry representatives started privately complaining of fears they’d be “extorted by the theme parks.”

Lobbyists for MillerCoors; the Beer Industry of Florida, the association of Florida’s MillerCoors distributors; and the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents Anheuser-Busch distributors; all opposed it in various committee hearings.

“We are opposed to continued alcohol deregulation and we believe the tide of public opinion is shifting toward a more conservative approach,” said Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida, in an email last week.

The legislation, by allowing ads, could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park.

“We kind of see a situation where (the parks) say, ‘We do such-and-such theme night, but now we’d like you to pay’ ” to sponsor it, said one person, who asked not to be named, earlier this year. “… We all feel like we’ll be put over a barrel.”

Another person who works in the state’s craft beer industry raised a concern that “the biggest players will come in and write the biggest checks.”

“So when you sit down in a park to order a beer, you’ll look up, see the signage, point to it and tell your waiter, ‘I guess I’ll just have one of those.’ ”

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor 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 [email protected].


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