For the past three years, the Florida legislature have been grappling with the issue of beer growlers, 64-ounce jugs commonly used to sell craft beer that are completely legal in 47 states but banned in Florida thanks to laws that date all the way back to the Prohibition Era. Efforts to finally legalize growlers in Florida have met defeat in the past few weeks of the past two sessions, but it appears Florida is closer than ever to finally working things out. Yesterday the Senate voted unanimously on a pro-growler bill.
Craft breweries have come into vogue across Florida over the past few years, but Florida's alcohol distribution laws have not allowed them to thrive as they have in other states. For one, Florida does not allow the sale of beer in any container larger than 32 ounces or smaller than 128 ounces. Florida also has a three-tier alcohol distribution system that technically forbids breweries from selling directly to consumers.
Craft breweries like Miami's Wynwood Brewing Company or J. Wakefield Brewing are allowed to open taprooms under a loophole in Florida's tourism laws that do allow them to sell directly to consumers on site. Otherwise a brewery must sell its beer to a distributor who then in turn sell it to bars, restaurants, or retail stores.
Sen. Jack Latvala's SB 186 would change all of that.
The bill allows people to buy 64-ounce growlers from breweries. That jug must include a label indicating the name of the brewery, name of the type of beer, and its alcohol volume. It must also have a sealed cap that prevents it from being consumed immediately. However, consumers can take the growlers back and have them filled up again as many times as they want. Breweries must have a vendor's license to do so.
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The bill also fully legalizes taprooms, and individual breweries can apply for licenses to sell their beers directly to consumers in as many as up to eight separate facilities. So popular breweries could open multiple locations.
That's all well and good, but the Senate's passage doesn't guarantee this bill will become law. Its House companion must also be approved, the two bills would then have to be reconciled, and finally Gov. Rick Scott would have to sign off. However, Latvala took an unusual step today to ensure that the process will go more smoothly.
Before the bill came up before the full Senate, Latvala amended it to make sure it had near identical language to the version in the House. That should help ensure the bill won't die in compromise. Now its fate is mostly up the House. Its version passed a final committee stop yesterday, where it got unanimous support as well. It now awaits a vote in the full House.