Microbrewers will be able to sell half-gallon growlers and open tap rooms under legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday.
Supported unanimously Tuesday by the Senate, SB 186 brings Florida craft breweries victories they say will help them grow. They’ll also gain clearance to open tap rooms, which they had been doing under an exemption in the law meant for promoting tourism.
The measure, which goes beyond earlier bills that only addressed growlers, still must get through the House and be signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
But after the two chambers amended their bills to be nearly identical, the horizon is more promising for Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who has been pushing to legalize growlers for three years. It’s been a highly contentious issue, pitting longstanding beer wholesalers and sometimes big-time brewers against craft breweries that hope looser regulations will give them the opportunity to grow.
In previous sessions, growlers legislation has been torpedoed at the last minute.
In an effort to align language more closely, Latvala advanced a new version of the bill on the floor just before the Senate’s final vote. It’s a rare move but one he said was needed to help the House and Senate end up on the same page.
“We’ve done it this way to kind of facilitate our negotiations on the other end of the hall,” Latvala said. “I’m not going to represent that the House has agreed to it … I’m going to represent that I think it’s pretty close to final language.”
Now, after near-identical language put forward by Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, cleared the House Regulatory Affairs Committee in the afternoon, the chambers are close to finding agreement.
“This has been a bill that’s been impossible to negotiate,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami.
But growlers themselves are no longer controversial. This year, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association came out in support of them.
They and the Florida Brewers Guild, which represents craft breweries, have also found consensus in limiting the number of tap room licenses a single brewer can have at eight.
In the compromise language, lawmakers have worked in provisions for craft distilleries, expanding the number of bottles of liquor that a person can buy. Right now, that’s capped at two bottles per year, but the bills would expand it to two of each brand or four of any one brand.
Both bills also allow for beer tastings and limit the volume of beer made elsewhere that can be sold at a craft brewery to the volume brewed at that site.
Contact Michael Auslen at email@example.com. Follow @Michael Auslen.