Theme park beer promotion bill gets panel nod

Bill would allow beer companies, theme parks to enter marketing deals.

A bill that would allow theme parks and beer companies to get together on naming rights and other marketing efforts drew approval Wednesday from the House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee.

HB 73 would create new joint marketing opportunities for breweries and Florida’s major theme parks,  those with at least 1 million annual visitors and 25 acres.

The bill proposes a revision of the so-called “Tied House Evil Law” that’s been on the books since the end of Prohibition. That law strove to require legal business distinctions between malt beverage brewers, distributors, and the establishments that served the drinks, to disrupt the kind of corrupt monopolistic activities seen in bootlegger networks of Prohibition times.

Debate Wednesday focused on whether allowing for new deals at theme parks would be a boon for Big Beer, or the little guys.

Republican sponsor Rep. Josie Tomkow of Polk City argued the bill would create opportunities for small brewers and distributors to showcase their beers in sponsored events or in the bars and taverns at the theme parks. She suggested craft brewers might find opportunities to market their products in the theme parks.

Much of the discussion centered on naming rights, perhaps as a beer company might put its name on an event at the theme park. Tomkow suggested it could be as simple as beer companies being able to put their names on a draw handle in a theme park bar’s tap spigot.

“My intent of the bill is for free-market approaches to allow these companies to enter into agreements with each other. These agreements might not even be of cash value,” she said. “For example, at a theme park, having a Guinness bar tap at that pub would fall under what we are trying to do. Right now that is against the law.”

Kelly Mallette, representing Gold Coast Beverage and Florida Distributing Co., said that the smaller distributors will be hurt.

“It is really about big business. It allows the biggest companies to enter the biggest marketing agreements, to help the biggest companies. … It’s the smaller guys that can’t do that,” she said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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