I have been asked a few times in recent days for a quick update of where things generally stand as we near the halfway point in the 2015 legislative session.  This is that:

Senate Bill 186, filed by Senator Jack Latvala, began as the straightforward growler bill that the distribution lobby claimed they would unconditionally support. While it began by simply adding language that would allow 64 ounce growlers and controlled who could sell them and listed labeling requirements, it has grown quite a bit.

It now removes the tourism exception so that the law simply states that a manufacturer may obtain a vendors license on property consisting of a single complex that includes a brewery.  Simply, if you have a brewery, you can have a vendors license on the premises (taproom). This way, the distributors and retailers no longer require clarification from Florida’s ABT to explain what the tourism exception means.

It limits the amount of malt beverages that can be transferred between commonly-owned breweries to 100 percent of the annual production of the receiving brewery.  So if you own two breweries and the smaller one produces 750 barrels of beer, it can only receive 750 barrels of beer from the larger brewery.

Vendor-licensed brewers would be prohibited from making deliveries of alcohol to consumers.

Allows malt beverage tastings to be held by brewers and distributors at locations licensed for on and off premise consumption and off-premise consumption only (such as liquor store, with limitations).  The off premise only location must have at least 10,000 square feet of interior space on the premises or have a quota license.  This will likely receive additional language to more closely match the tastings bill from the prior session (tastings must be inside, limit on the size of pours, restriction to one manufacturer per tasting).

It also adds that growlers must include the anticipated ABV of the product inside (along with the name of the brewery and the brand that was already in the bill) although this is not an otherwise required practice.

*Also of note is that the distributors are seeking to add an additional restriction upon the growth of the craft brewing industry by limiting the number of vendors licenses that can be obtained by breweries.

 

House Bill 301 is the growler bill in the house. It is the same as the Latvala bill as originally drafted, so it only deals with the addition of the growler language. This will likely be amended as SB 186 reaches its final draft.

House Bill 107 is Representative Steube’s second attempt to drastically overhaul Florida’s Beverage Law.  This bill includes a number of issues that are likely to hold it back. It has moved through its committee stops thus far, but each time with some push back and an acknowledgment that it will need more change.

  • Limited self distribution. The bill would allow breweries to distribute up to 1,000 barrels of their own beer directly to licensed vendors (this was originally 5,000 barrels prior to amendment).
  • Growlers of 32, 64 and 128 ounces (it originally would have opened up all container sizes)
  • The bill would allow for tastings conducted by manufacturers (and distributors) on site at retailers.  Samples would be limited to no more than 3 ounces per product sampled.
  • The bill originally provided for franchise reform, but that was immediately and pretty universally rejected. It has been removed by amendment.
  • Breweries could operate taprooms without separately acquiring a retail license. In those taprooms, the proposed bill would require that at least 70 percent of the beer sold (or given) to consumers must be brewed on premises. The remainder must be brewed by the same brewery but may be brewed off-site.
  • Breweries would continue to be able to obtain vendors licenses (up to two) to operate their taprooms as they currently do (guest taps, etc.).
  • Would allow package stores to have an inside entrance connecting the package store to another building or room licensed under the Beverage Law to the same licensee, such as a grocery store (this previously removed the requirement that a wall must separate stores such as grocery stores from stores selling liquor – see Publix). This has created a lot of noise and will continue to be an issue. It will significantly change certain business models and some claim that it will somehow allow children to more easily acquire liquor.
  • It also allows liquor to be stored in the connected business if there is an inside entrance. This one is another rallying cry for the “think of the children” folks. They claim that if liquor is stored in a place where teenagers work, it is likely that the children will, as a whole, drink a lot more liquor.
  • Would allow craft distilleries to sell unlimited distilled spirits in fact-to-face transactions with consumers making the purchases for personal use.  Craft distilleries can currently only sell 2 bottles per year to a given consumer.

HB 883 and SB 1560 would provide an exception to Florida’s tied house evil laws by allowing financial transactions (negotiated at arm’s length at fair market value) between a brewery and a retailer so long as the retailer is a giant (retailer and its affiliates had gross revenues in year prior to transaction greater than $100 million).  The transaction cannot involve the direct sale or distribution of beer between the brewer and retailer.  It could, potentially, impact things like advertising and draft equipment. Defining fair market value is not always a terribly easy thing to do, especially for transactions that have not been allowed in the past.  These bills have not yet been discussed in any committee hearings.