First, the good news for Florida booze-hounds: A bill that would help craft distilleries in the Sunshine State is headed to the House floor for a vote. If it passes, you'll be able to buy small-batch liquors straight from distilleries, ending a Prohibition-era ban that has prevented local rum and whiskey makers from getting a foothold.
The bad news, though, is that beer wholesalers are blocking another common-sense bill that would finally legalize 64-ounce growlers, the portable containers favored by microbreweries.
The liquor bill comes from Rep. Ronald "Doc" Renuart, who introduced it on behalf of a new, small-batch distillery set to open in the historic section of St. Augustine. Under the current laws, visitors who tour the distillery couldn't actually buy any of the locally made liquor to take home; instead, the distiller has to sell it to a wholesaler, who then sells it to liquor stores.
Renuart says erasing that rule would help a new, tourism-friendly industry thrive.
"These are Florida-manufactured products that we should be supporting," he told Riptide last month. "If tourists are coming, we want them to walk away with a Florida-made product."
The bill has flown through committee, though Renuart did have to appease wholesalers by limiting the number of bottles visitors can buy at distilleries to two per customer. Given that restriction, it seems a good bet to pass the House.
The same, sadly, can't be said of a bill that would end the absurd ban on 64-ounce growlers; that law dates from the '60s, when lobbyists created it to cut into Miller's then-booming pony-can business.
Rep. Katie Edwards, a Plantation Democrat, created the bill to help boost Florida's still-fledgling craft brewery movement. Though a Senate committee passed her companion bill, beer wholesalers -- who would potentially lose business from drinkers buying growlers straight from breweries -- have stalled it in committee.
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