Sen. Kelli Stargel: Amendment designed to find common ground in beer battle

Senate Bill 1714 has come under heavy scrutiny from the media, public and most ardently, craft brewers.  Today, I want to set the record straight, as there is a small, but vocal faction of the beer industry that has clouded this issue by promulgating misinformation.

First, I want to establish that I am, and always will be, a small government Republican.  I arrived at this public policy decision skeptical of government regulation.  It’s clear the three-tier system instituted after Prohibition – brewers, distributors, retailers — must be preserved to prevent:

1) predatory practices that would eliminate competition

2) opaque or illicit distribution channels

3) tax evasion,

4) over-promotion

5) excessive consumption.

Why is the three-tier system necessary in the 21st Century?  It is the backbone of societal protections against rampant alcoholism of the 1920s.

When beer was deregulated in the 1970s, we again experienced the effects of undercutting the three-tier system.  It has been pointed out in news reports that states where beer is unregulated, the per capita production is significantly higher. Higher beer production and higher consumption go hand-in-hand.

As a social conservative, this is why I believe we need to keep regulations on alcoholic beverages in place and not have unregulated beer widely available in the marketplace. I believe that social issues greatly impact economic issues and we must seek a balance.

As this bill has progressed, I have continued to meet with stakeholders across the industry to ensure the rights and interests of all Floridians are protected.  To that end, I filed an amendment that represents two important changes in an attempt to find common ground.

With the recently filed amendment, the bill would authorize small breweries — under 2,000 kegs in production — to sell all of their beer either by draft, in growlers or in sealed containers to go with no come-to-rest requirements.  In addition, it would authorize breweries to sell up to 20 percent of their annual on-site production in sealed containers to go.   Further, a consumer can buy up to one keg per day from the brewery.

Most importantly, this legislation will preserve the critical three-tier system, while ensuring that the craft brewery industry is operating legally, not in a grey area.

Currently, craft brewers operate under a tourism exemption.  It allows a brewer (tier one) to sell beer to a customer as a vendor (tier three).  This exemption was originally intended to allow theme parks to sell beer to its park visitors. However, craft breweries have been issued licenses under this exemption, without having to prove their tourism aspect.  Thus, they are operating outside the context of the law.

SB 1714 addresses this ambiguity by eliminating the tourism requirement.

Now, allow me to state clearly what Senate Bill 1714 does NOT do.

This bill will not put craft breweries out of business.  It simply protects the three-tier system and ensures they are operating within the law.

This bill does not seek to protect only distributors.  It seeks to protect all industry partners, from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.  Without proper regulation and without separating the manufacturer from the retailer, history has taught us that trouble often follows.

This bill does not institute a tariff on craft breweries, as some have suggested. The claim that a craft brewery would have to pay a “tariff” on their own beer that never leaves their premise is baseless.

The bottom line is the three-tier system provides the proper legal protections for the manufacturing and consumption of alcoholic beverages in our state.  The tiers must remain separate, similar to the three branches of government.

It does not undermine craft breweries. In fact, it creates a regulatory framework in which the operation of craft breweries is legal and can continue to grow, while providing a safeguard for our three-tier system.

I am proud of the hard work, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit of our Florida craft breweries and I invite any of them to share with me their thoughts and concerns in a professional and respectful manner as it relates to Senate Bill 1714 and the recently filed amendment.

Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel represents Senate District 15. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Guest Author


  • duvalbill

    April 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    The reasoning provided by Ms. Stargel contains zero factual predicate. Specifically, I’m unsure how the three tier system prevents “rampant alcoholism,” as any of age person can buy as much alcohol as they want at any liquor store.

    Frankly, this amended bill and its’ previous iterations simply highlight a lack of research done by Ms. Stargel and this bill’s sponsors. Further, it appears Ms. Stargel is simply putting her fingers in her ears, when she flippantly states that this bill, “will not put craft breweries out of business.” While eviscerating a revenue stream may not put a brewery out of business, it certainly will take a chunk out of the bottom line. And why? To give that money to the distributors who have zero impact in the creation of a product? The notion is nonsensical and Orwellian.

    Most of all, this proposed legislation is bad for the consumer and fails to provide a benefit to the people it should. This legislation is poorly conceived and I hope it does not move further any farther.

  • Sean

    April 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    No matter which way you spin this and sugar coat it, this bill is still making craft brewers buy their beer back from an unnecessary distributor at a higher price just to sell it in their own establishments. It favors big beer at a very convenient time, when the craft beer industry is booming.

    The 3 tier system is archaic. Things change, people and society evolve. There is no reason we can’t move from the archaic 3 tier system to something that better fits our society now. Why are we forcing archaic ideals with a system brought about from a prohibition when things are fine the way they are now? Is there any point to any of this at all other than simply conforming to an archaic law?

    This is an obvious case of big beer finding a way to slow down the craft beer industry in Florida, all they needed was a willing politician to introduce it. I wonder what sort of benefits Senator Stargel is receiving from Anheuser Busch now…

  • Ben

    April 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness involved in her line of thinking.

  • Josh

    April 29, 2014 at 6:21 am

    This piece of legislation is unnecessary and misguided. This “three tier system” is one of the silliest things I’ve ever read.

    This bill is designed only to protect the large beer distributors. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the Ms Stargell is in the pocket of the very same business this garbage law protects.

  • Florida Craft Beer

    April 30, 2014 at 9:14 am

    You know it’s funny…or actually sad…that Sen. Stargel points to the three-tiered system set up in the 1930’s to try to protect the consumers from the “rampant alcoholism of the 1920’s.” Comparing 2014 to the 1920’s is laughable. Does Sen. Stargel, a female, realize things change? Matter of fact does she realize that she couldn’t vote before 1920?

    As she, and other Republicans, run on a pro small-business and pro small-government platform, it is a farce. Period. They only protect small-business when they decide it is a great political photo op or news story. They only believe in small-government unless they need regulation to force their agendas.

    Kelli Stargel has received more than $6,000 in cash for her campaigns from large beer distributors. Yes, I’m sure that has NOTHING to do with her decision. And she has the nerve to talk about morals in her article? Nothing more than another bought and paid for politician. Sickening and shameful.

  • Vinnie

    April 30, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Sen Stargel uses the rhetoric of noe-prohibition to the letter. First the causes of prohibition go beyond excess alcohol use. In fact national prohibitions passage was equally tied to the xenophobic fears of Catholics, Germans, Italians and other immigrants who used the pub/saloon as central gathering point.Sen Stargel needs to become more familiar with our countries history before lecturing us about it.

Comments are closed.


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