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Beer Bill Passes Unanimously

The Senate’s malt beverages bill that includes the legalization of the 64 ounce growler passed the House today with a unanimous vote. Much of the news has focused on the excitement of the new found freedom of the 64 ounce growler. There is more to the bill in its final form than simply a growler bill. This lays out the material terms of the bill.

Most importantly to the craft brewers, this deletes the tourism exception. Once there is a brewery, that brewery can be issued a vendors license on the premises. This does create a new limit of 8 vendors licenses that each brewery may hold. It is not terribly likely that the limit of 8 would impact many breweries in the State, but it is a new restriction that the distribution lobby will look to make more restrictive in the future.

The bill also limits transfers from one brewery location […]

By |April 24th, 2015|Blog|4 Comments

Growler Bill Closer to Reality (with a bit of a catch)

On Wednesday, a proposed amendment to CS/SB 186 was filed that would place an artificial cap on the number of vendor licenses that a brewery in Florida may obtain.  There is currently no such limit but the amendment would set the limit at 9.  This would mean that any given brewery could open nine total breweries that have taprooms.  Any additional manufacturing location would not be allowed to sell beer on site. Breweries that are already licensed are, in effect, grandfathered in and allowed 9 additional vendor-licensed breweries.

This bill started as a simple and straightforward growler bill.  Late last year, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association (FBWA) stated that they “believe it is now time to separate the growler from the larger conversation.”  However, soon after, two retail organizations sought to challenge Florida’s “tourism exception” and the FBWA and the Beer Industry of Florida (BIF) sought to intervene and support […]

By |April 1st, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Where We Are With 2015 Malt Beverage Legislation

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 […]

By |March 27th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Propaganda Season in the Beer Industry – Force the Distribution Lobbyists to Make Sense

Some of the distribution and retail groups – generally the ones behind the administrative proceedings that sought to challenge the tourism exception – are beginning to ramp up their efforts in the realm of incredibly easy-to-recognize propaganda. The message, as is often the case, will be without context and will focus on ignoring the realities of the situation. Hey, look over here and please don’t question what’s happening over there (let’s focus on the fact that craft beer in Florida exists but not consider how it can thrive further with a more reasonable statutory scheme that works in other parts of the country).

The rallying cry is that the three tier system works. What that means, for many, is let’s not grow. Let’s not evolve. Let’s leave things the way they are. It also means that they want people – legislators, consumers, media – to believe that this is the three […]

By |March 16th, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Florida House, Senate Committees Discuss Malt Beverage Regulations

Committees within the Florida House and Senate began discussions regarding the regulatory scheme surrounding beer in Florida on Wednesday. It was generally a day for the legislators to discuss the basics and gain some knowledge. In the Senate, the Regulated Industries Committee heard a presentation from an attorney with the Senate. The presentation was a general overview of the three tier system, tied house laws, licensing issues (including tourism exception) and growler/container size issues. The powerpoint presentation can be viewed in the meeting packet here. The Business and Professions Subcommittee in the House heard presentations from groups including the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, Beer Industry of Florida and the Florida Brewers Guild on the three tier system, self distribution and franchise agreements (the distributor groups said you would rue the day you mess with franchise agreements).

The Regulated Industries Committee includes Senators Latvala and Stargel.  Stargel […]

By |January 22nd, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

Christmas Eve: State Files Reply in Support of its Motion to Dismiss Growler Suit

It’s Christmas Eve, so the State filed its reply in support of its motion to dismiss the growler lawsuit. The State generally built some straw men and knocked them down with ease.

Defendants began by arguing simply that the statutory purpose of avoiding excessive consumption cannot be refuted by plaintiff. Defendants state that “here is certainly no question that the intent of precluding the sale of beer in containers between 32 ounces and 1 gallon was to decrease the likelihood of excessive drinking and to encourage alcoholic beverage vendors to be prudent in their serving practices.” There is certainly question. Without such question, Florida wouldn’t be mocked for having this law on the books and for continuously defending the restriction while reality and the rest of the country prove that more containers sizes do not lead to excessive drinking. Defendants probably wouldn’t have been sued if there […]

By |December 24th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

Growler Suit Update

The day after Senator Latvala filed his straight-forward growler bill that would leave the container laws in place and specifically allow growlers of 32, 64 and 128 ounces, there are some updates on the growler litigation filed in Federal court.

First, Judge Robin L. Rosenberg quickly denied a motion for oral argument on the State’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff sought the hearing as a strong opportunity to make the clear point that the statute in place is completely irrational and has no rational relationship to any government interest. The Judge will rule based upon the papers.

At the motion to dismiss stage, a court will accept all factual allegations contained in the complaint as true and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Ultimately, if a complaint may give rise to the entitlement of relief that can be awarded by the court, it should not be dismissed. While it is a […]

By |December 17th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

Steube Files Beer Bill (HB 107) in the House. Seeks Limited Self-Distribution and Franchise Reform

Representative Gregory Steube filed HB 107 yesterday. The bill follows much of the language of the bills we saw in the previous session. For example, it would allow breweries to 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. That would include selling beer for on and off premise consumption and allow for wine and/or liquor depending upon the vendor license owned by the brewery. Any brewery that has already applied for more than two vendor’s licenses prior to 3/15/15 or which has already been issue more than two such […]

By |December 16th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

The State Will Fight: Files a Motion to Dismiss Growler Suit

The Office of the Attorney General, on behalf of Defendants Lawson and Spicola (DBPR and ABT), filed its Motion to Dismiss the “growler lawsuit” this morning.  The incorporated memorandum of law in support of the motion generally lays out a history lesson of how the statute was originally enacted, provides some red herring arguments in support of dismissing the lawsuit and includes a semi-hilarious explanation of why the container size law is “rational.”

As discussed in a previous post, the defendants here must only prove that the challenged law is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. It is the most lenient standard for judicial review available. Plaintiff has the burden of proving that the law serves no conceivable legitimate purpose.

Defendants mostly skirt the issue of rationality. They do bring it up briefly on three separate occasions. They argue, for example, that “iven that consumers are significantly more likely to attempt […]

By |November 19th, 2014|Blog|1 Comment

Legal Challenge of Florida’s Container Size Laws

Most are probably aware now that a lawsuit has been filed against the State of Florida (the Secretary of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco) seeking a declaration that Florida’s container size limitations are unconstitutional and enjoining enforcement of the container size limitations. Those container size limitations ban all containers between 32 and 128 ounces, thus making it illegal to sell or fill the industry standard 64 ounce growler. The suit was filed on behalf of a craft beer retailer that operates in Stuart.

Now that the suit has been filed, what kind of interesting things may follow? First, will the State defend this lawsuit? It’s relatively indefensible and may just be a waste of time and money. Defendants must simply prove that the challenged law is rationally related to […]

By |October 29th, 2014|Blog|1 Comment