It is our overarching mission at the Florida Brewers Guild to advocate and engage in the legislative process with our elected officials, to fight for and protect our interests, and provide a singular, unified voice that represents all members of the Florida craft beer industry.
Alcoholic beverages, like any other heavily regulated industry, will always be under scrutiny and changes to the laws will face opposition from other industry members. Your support and participation as members is vital to our success, and as we grow our numbers, so to will we grow in strength.
Florida’s alcohol beverage laws are a patchwork quilt of assorted regulations across all tiers; candidly, some will admit they are nothing short of “a jumbled mess.” Many of these laws, rules, and regulations were drafted and enacted prior to the inception and growth of the craft beer industry in the State of Florida. As a result, these laws, rules, and regulations need to take into account our needs and be amended to permit our Florida craft breweries to flourish and thrive. That’s where we come in.
Recent Legislative Success
During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Florida Brewers Guild fought for, and passed, Senate Bill 186. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), with the House companion sponsored by Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Clearwater). Although nicknamed “the Growler bill,” the bill was much more comprehensive than simple growler regulations. To counter a recent administrative challenge to the “amusement park exception” that permitted a brewery to obtain both a manufacturer’s license and a vendor’s license, the Legislature decided to weigh-in on the matter and guarantee a brewery’s right to obtain both licenses.
Although the bill encountered strong opposition from the distributor’s lobby, including attempts to place greater restrictions on breweries’ retail sales, those efforts were defeated, and the bill ultimately passed both chambers unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor. And yes, it did finally end the long battle to legalize the 64 ounce growler!
Key Issues to Address
While the passage of Senate Bill 186 during the 2015 Session was an important step for the Florida Brewers Guild, we realize there is plenty of work left to do and are ready to hit the ground running. Some of the key issues we will be addressing include:
- Self-Distribution: Approximately 36 states currently allow some form of self-distribution by breweries to retail vendors. We plan on being number 37.
- Excise Tax: Florida currently has the 8th highest excise tax rate in the U.S. These high taxes discourage new brewers from doing business in our state and are ultimately passed on to consumers. We would also like to see these taxes be put to good use, and want to see a portion of these taxes allocated toward marketing for the craft beer industry.
- Franchise Reform: The joke in the craft beer industry is that signing with a distributor is stronger than getting married, since, “you can always get out of a marriage.” The statutes governing these contracts are written heavily in favor of the distributors and provide little recourse or negotiating power to the breweries. While many breweries have a positive relationship with their distributors, there needs to be a clear mechanism for an exit without resorting to litigation. This issue is considered either the Holy Grail or Untouchable depending on where you are in the industry.
- Florida Signage: The Florida Department of Transportation provides signs (at cost) for Florida wineries; we would like to see the same for our Florida breweries.
- Fee Reduction: Lowering the annual license fees for breweries would help encourage new brewery growth and provide a little economic benefit for all brewery licensees.
Find Your Legislators
Be sure to check the Florida House website to Find Your Elected Officials in Florida to obtain the name and contact information of your State Senator, State Representative, and member of Congress.