Excited for all of the breweries under construction in Florida? Don't get too excited too fast. If one Florida state representative has his way, the idea of a small-batch and hyperlocal brewery could be a thing of the past.
House Bill 1329, a law sponsored by Southwest Florida Republican state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, was introduced this past Monday in Tallahassee, and its text is a baffling attempt to add more restrictions to the alcohol regulations in the state.
This bill seeks to promote "the public's interest in a viable and effective three-tier system of regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and retail sale of alcoholic beverages" but, more important, aims to decrease how brewers can sell their product so that "the limited retail option for manufacturers of malt beverages in the state would provide an economic boost to the local communities supporting those breweries, [and] would not compete unfairly with distributors and retailers of malt beverages in those communities."
What does this and the rest of the law mean for Florida breweries?
In essence, it will affect tasting rooms and a breweries' ability to sell to the public. That could mean no guest taps, the inability to pour collaboration beers, or even the ability to exist as a simple nanobrewery operation with no outside distribution.
Ross Appel, an associate attorney with Komlossy Law in Hollywood, studies beer-related laws and has written an in-depth analysis of HB1329.
"This bill requires that the brewery intends to supply its distributors or else it will lose its ability to have any guest taps," he writes.
"Regulations like these have no real value other than to stifle the small businesses that are creating great craft beer in Florida."
If this law were to pass, breweries would need to get specific vendor's licenses before July 1, 2014, or they would be subject to all of these new regulations. With the amount of time it takes to get through federal/state/local bureaucracy to begin with, this is a supertight time frame.
The impact of this passing would mean a large change in the landscape of Florida craft beer. It would mean a sapping of some of the collaborative spirit of the craft beer movement and require breweries to distribute their beers if they want to operate at all.
As with any piece of legislation being considered, feel free to contact your representative and voice your concerns.
I know I will.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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