‘Good intentions’: How legislation is wrongly pitting distributors against distillers
Image by Ira Lee Nesbitt from Pixabay.

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No one voting for these bills, it seems, realizes the import of their action.

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” Mark Twain said. To that, add “or his liquor.”

Lawmakers may have the proverbial “good intentions,” but they continue to move irresponsibly forward in changing this state’s alcoholic-beverage laws for the worse.

Bills that would benefit craft distillers at a business cost to beverage distributors, who have been around longer and created far more jobs, keeping getting approved.

No one has yet, it seems, addressed the fundamental disparity in the way these measures treat distillers and distributors.

The distillers want to ship product out of state directly to customers and bills moving would let them do that.

But what about the distributors? They don’t have that privilege. In fact, the legislation could theoretically allow booze to be brought in from out of state, repackaged here, then shipped elsewhere. Sounds like a racket. 

Another bill lets distilleries open their own shops in airports and sell their liquor there. But try talking about letting distributors into the retail game too and the spirits makers will cry a river.

At the risk of sounding like a skipping record, no one voting for these bills, it seems, realizes the import of their action. The result will be a shattering of Florida’s “three-tier system.”

That system, created after Prohibition, calls for the business separation of alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Those are the three ‘tiers.’

Why? To avoid a situation where one actor in the marketplace has an unfair advantage over the other.

Bills now in the Legislature, however, would do the opposite, and take us back to the days of manufacturers twisting arms and trampling on the rights of others in the alcoholic-beverage realm.

Many distributors large and small, it should be noted, have been around far longer and have paid countless sums in taxes.

Robert Tobiassen, a former chief counsel for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau “believes that national distributors benefit local economies by creating jobs and supplying extra income to state governments via taxes.”

That’s according to Tim McKirdy, writing on Vinepair.

“The middle tier of the three-tier system does employ a large number of people and contributes financially to many community charitable efforts,” Tobiassen said, calling the three-tier system “a good neighbor.”

Let’s honor a “good neighbor.” Let’s keep a status quo that’s worked for over 80 years. We’re all for ‘disruption,’ but let’s not allow a break for one sector of an economy to result in unfairness to the others.  

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • ben etheridge

    March 19, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Sorry, you cant use that sink,,,, because that’s the way its always been.

    “Let’s keep a status quo that’s worked for over 80 years.” Sounds like a lazy way of lawmaking, I’m sure we are all glad we didn’t take this approach to segregation and voting laws from the same era.

    “The distillers want to ship product out of state directly to customers and bills moving would let them do that”. Do we really think that a craft distillery owner shipping 6 bottles out of state will overthrow the beast that is the 3-tier system? That is really what we are talking about here. Most craft distillers cant get a phone call back from a distributor, and have to rely entirely on in-house sales, which mind you is not enough to stay in business.

    You cite the reason for a 3-tier as “To avoid a situation where one actor in the marketplace has an unfair advantage over the other” What do you think is the current status of the industry? Please look into these details before you misinform your readers.

    I know its hard to put yourself in anothers work boots, but if we do, I’m sure we can all see that giving a craftsman the opportunity to sell their products IS fair treatment. I urge you to give this industry a shot, and if you don’t fail in 6 months, it’s a miracle. (The reasons are obvious to anyone in the industry)

    “Another bill lets distilleries open their own shops in airports and sell their liquor there.” Do we really think that creating a feeling of community pride in having a locally made spirit for tourists to bring home is a bad thing? Have you never been to a craft brewery? Ahhh, nevermind, I get it, this is where the fear comes into play. People drinking local is bad for big business, unless they get a cut.

    The want to crush this bill obviously comes from the potential loss in profit, not a desire to do what is best for the industry and ALL involved. The fear is that if the distributor is not needed, they wont be used.

    This could not be farther from the truth. Do you really think that if this law passes all craft distilleries would abandon their distributor? They are an asset if you are lucky enough to be picked up by one. Who do you think actually holds the power here? Keep in mind that distributors have absolutely no obligation to sell craft products, but we are forced to use them. That’s insane.

    “Bills now in the Legislature, however, would do the opposite, and take us back to the days of manufacturers twisting arms and trampling on the rights of others in the alcoholic-beverage realm” Yes, with their incredible marketing budget of $720, the craft distillery owner will quickly and effectively destroy a system that has been in charge for 80 years. Seriously?

    Ben Etheridge
    Neither a writer nor a lobbyist
    Black Coral Family distillery

    This post was not paid for nor influenced by anyone.

Comments are closed.


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