The push to get Florida’s archaic and restrictive craft beer growler laws are heating up again. Two representatives, Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater and Rep. Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor – both Republicans — filed bills earlier this week that would allow Florida breweries to sell their beer in 64-ounce, refillable bottles known as growlers. Florida is one of only two states in the nation that prohibit half-gallon containers for to-go beer. Utah is the other state.
At an event held at Dunedin Brewery near Tampa, Latvala said, “It’s nothing new or revolutionary, we’re just announcing we’re going to file the same bill we’ve filed the last two years.”
Last year, a bill to allow 64-ounce growlers, but loaded with other damaging attachments, failed to get voted on before the end of the congressional session effectively killing it.
In addition to the bills filed by Latvala and Sprowls, a Stuart, Fla. bar-owner filed a lawsuit against the state citing that the ban on half-gallon growlers is arbitrary because it serves no public interest, like it would if it curtailed drunk driving. The suit goes on to allege the ban creates an unfair competitive advantage for larger beer brewers because they can afford to package beer in six-packs and other multiples.
“In a state that depends on tourism, being out of the step with the rest of the country costs craft beer businesses money,” the suit said. “The law is irrational.”
Standing in the way of the bill for the past few years has been the powerful lobbying reach of big brewers and distributors who have tied the growler issue to others such as Florida’s three-tier system and allowing breweries to operate on-site tasting rooms.
But, big beer distributers may be loosening up in their opposition of small breweries selling the national standard, half-gallon growlers. Just a few weeks ago, Mitch Rubin, executive director of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, said the group would not stand in the way of “stand-alone product.” This reversal of position could mean that Florida’s Anheuser-Busch beer distributors would agree to a “clean” growler bill without added attachments.
At the Dunedin event, Latvala summed up, “I don’t think there’s a reason in the world why Florida should be one of only two states in this entire country that doesn’t allow 64-ounce growlers.”
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