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Florida craft breweries face challenge to tap room beer sales

18 Jan

Image by Flickr user heady, used under a Creative Commons License.

Image by Flickr user heady, used under a Creative Commons License.

Just when the craft brewers in Florida think that they may have a chance at making a real change in the archaic — and decidedly slanted — thinking of the state’s lawmakers, another challenge raises its ugly head. In this case, a law suit filed with the state by a collaboration of several groups bent on making it more difficult for craft brewers to sell their product. The suit is being brought by Florida Independent Spirits Association, the Florida Retail Federation and the beer wholesalers’ lobbying organizations. Its purpose is “clarify” the state’s issuance of licenses to breweries and the ability of those breweries to sell beer in tasting rooms for both on-premises consumption and off-premises consumption in growlers and other packaging.

What is not mentioned by the suit is that some of the sponsors have a vested interest in breweries being prohibited from selling growlers and packaged beer. One of the sponsors, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, has recently begun installing growler fill stations in their stores at an aggressive pace. Something that, if their suit is successful, breweries would not be allowed to do.

Ben Davis, owner of Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, Fla., has issued a call to action letter through email and on social media. Davis has long been an advocate and activist in Florida’s rapidly expanding craft beer scene. In the last congressional session, he employed a lobbyist to look out for the interests of craft brewers.

Davis is also on the cusp of expanding his operation from its current location to a much larger and much more visible location near the sports district in downtown Jacksonville. The suit could place these plans and those of craft brewers who want to open or expand in Florida in serious jeopardy.

Davis’ letter is reprinted below. At the end of it, he provides opportunities for you to help.

Dear Craft Beer Fans –

I am writing to you in regards to the recent legal challenge filed by groups that oppose the Florida craft beer industry. This legal challenge is being led by the Florida Independent Spirits Association, the Florida Retail Federation and the beer wholesalers’ lobbying organizations. This has been an orchestrated attack on our industry.

As many of you know, we have been fighting for 2+ years to legalize half gallon growlers and we have continually been forced to go on the defensive to protect our interests. We are fighting groups that have the resources and political clout to fight us at every turn.

One of our only weapons has been your support and it is much appreciated.

When I started Intuition over 4 years ago I was focused on making great beer, supporting my community and advocating for our industry.

I have spent far too much time and energy protecting my industry against groups that want to slow our growth at a minimum and at a maximum make us go away.

I have 2 young sons that I would love to be involved with Intuition one day. I love this industry and take pride in creating a legacy for my boys. I could not live with myself if I did not fight to protect this industry. My parents raised me to stand up for what I believe in and I have always taken that to heart.

Our taprooms are vital to the health of our industry. Our opposition is strongly opposed to the way our taprooms currently operate. We currently can sell our beer directly to our supporters via our taproom. Our opposition would like to force us to sell our beer to a distributor and then buy it back, at a markup, before we can sell it to you. I am strongly opposed to any change to the current laws intended to hurt my business and my industry as a whole.

Our opposition knows we do not have the financial resources to fight their legal challenge.

This is where you come in. The Florida Brewers Guild has set up a crowdfunded legal defense fund. We estimate that we will need $100,000 to fight this. A ridiculous sum but it is the reality of the situation.

Here is a link to the site: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-florida-s-craft-breweries

Any contribution will help as we are literally fighting for the life of the Florida craft brewing industry.

I want to make this clear that this is a legal issue not a legislative one. Our state reps cannot help us, yet.

This is how you can help.  Contact our opposition:

Florida Retail Federation (850) 222-4082
Beer Industry of Florida (850) 222-8960
Florida Beer Wholesalers Association (850) 224-2337
Florida Independent Spirits Association (850) 421-9100

Ask them why they are fighting against the craft breweries they sell, and ask them to drop their legal challenge.

Thanks in advance for your past and continued support.

Ben Davis
Founder, Intuition Ale Works

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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Beer News

 

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