Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Craft beer regulation likely to go flat in legislative battle

TALLAHASSEE — One of the most closely watched issues facing Florida lawmakers, how to regulate the booming craft beer industry, seemed to be falling flat on Tuesday.

In the morning, senators agreed to let brewers sell their products in popular half-gallon "growler" containers — in exchange for sales restrictions some brewers said would destroy them.

But by afternoon, the measure's prospects looked dimmer than ever in the lower chamber.

"That bill has an uphill battle in the Florida House," said Speaker Will Weatherford, explaining that since the growler bill has no House companion, it would require agreement from two-thirds of his members to even bring it to a vote.

"The fact that the Senate saw fit to pass a bad bill with no House companion could prove very problematic," said House Majority Whip Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, an early supporter of craft breweries. There now are 28 in the Tampa Bay area.

"We'll see how it plays out, but you can take that I'm smiling and all calm right now to mean that it's going to work out."

SB 1714, backed by major distributors but opposed by microbreweries, wouldn't regulate any craft beer establishment selling fewer than 2,000 kegs a year. But microbreweries selling more than 2,000 kegs that exceed 20 percent of their sales in take-home consumption would have to sell their product to distributors, and then buy it back at marked-up prices.

"It's a terrible bill because it prevents the little guy from growing," said Joey Redner, who founded Tampa's Cigar City Brewing. "We are putting caps on how big companies can get."

The measure passed by a 30-10 vote, with six Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and four Democrats, including Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, voting against it. Ten Democrats and 20 Republicans, including Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, voted for it.

"There is not one person here who would vote to kill jobs," Simpson said. "But this bill is not about that. It says if you grow to a certain size, you are no longer a small business. It's a good bill."

The brouhaha started when Latvala filed a bill that would allow craft breweries to sell their brew in half-gallon containers, which are allowed in 47 other states. Florida allows brewers to sell in containers that are 32 ounces and 128 ounces, but the half-gallon size is more popular with consumers because it's a generous size, but not so much that a lot of leftover beer would go flat overnight.

But beer distributors, including the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, see craft breweries as competition. Senate President Don Gaetz, who counts Anheuser-Busch distributor Lewis Bear as a close friend, fast-tracked the bill sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, that imposed a series of new restrictions on craft breweries.

The bill would let them sell in quarter-gallon, half-gallon and full-gallon containers, but no other containers.

"If someone comes into the bar and asks me to fill a stein, I can't do that," Redner said.

Stargel said the bill won't hurt existing breweries. Rather, it will protect them in the future from lawsuits.

"This is a new, growing industry," Stargel said. "Rather than have them face it in the courts and see them shut down because of ambiguities, I'm trying to put clarity into the law. This bill won't limit their growth."

Redner wasn't buying it.

"If I get sued, why does the distributor care?" he said, noting the bill refers to kegs, not the barrels that craft brewers use.

"We came to the table hundreds of times," Redner said. "But you can tell no one listened to us."

Latvala said the backlash against Stargel's efforts is the most he's seen on any legislation.

"I've had more telephone calls, correspondences, Facebook posts on this than anything else," he said. "I'm real hot on this issue. It started as a simple idea, and it evolved into something that will put people out of work, put people out of business."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18