Florida Bill Would Force Craft Breweries To Sell Their Beer To Distributors Then Buy it Back

Florida's beer laws are already about as logical as David Samson's Survivor strategy. Thanks to the oversized influence of big money distributors, antiquated laws like one banning 64-ounce growlers (which are legal in 47 other states) stay on the books.

Craft brewers have spent four years trying to change that law. But thanks to the distributors, the latest effort has been hijacked in the Senate with regulations that could put a chokehold on the nascent industry, craft brewers say, by imposing draconian new rules -- including one forcing them to sell their own beer to distributors and buying it back at a 30 percent mark-up before they could sell it in-house.

"To me, that looks like racketeering," Joshua Aubuchon, an attorney representing the Florida Brewers Guild, tells Reuters.

On its surface, Senate Bill 7120 would change the growler law that has hurt craft brewers for years, legalizing the popular 64-ounce bottle size.

But the bill also contains onerous language added by the distributors, who want to define "strict lines between manufacturers, distributors and retailers," their lobbyist tells Reuters.

One way it would do so is by making it illegal for brewers to directly sell customers the bottles and cans of beer they make at their breweries. Think about that.

The law would make it so you, a cash-paying customer, could walk into Wynwood Brewery, for example, ready to hand over money for the beverages they've produced right there on site. But no! First, Wynwood would have to sell those beverages to a distributor, who would then sell it back with a hefty markup.

Local brewers are crying foul, and have started a change.org petition against the proposal that's garnered well over the 1,500 signature goal. The largest craft brewery in the state, Tampa's Cigar City, has threatened to open its new brewery outside of Florida if the law passes.

Here's soon-to-open local brewer J. Wakefield tweeting about the threat of the bill earlier this week:

The bill passed its first committee unanimously and is awaiting another hearing.

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