Florida is violating the U.S. Constitution by arbitrarily banning restaurants, taverns, and breweries from selling or filling the most popular portable growler for craft beers — the half-gallon (64-ounce) growler.
So says the libertarian-oriented Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed in federal court today on behalf of the owners of The Crafted Keg, a craft beer restaurant in Stuart, located on Florida's Treasure Coast.
"Florida imposes a double standard by allowing less popular growlers but banning the one people prefer,” said Mark Miller, managing attorney with PLF’s office in Palm Beach Gardens. “Florida’s restrictions stand in stark contrast to 47 other states, where half-gallon growlers are perfectly legal and have become the industry standard."
You don't to remind the proprietors from the Tampa Bay area craft brewing scene about that fact. But they've been unsuccessful over the past two legislative sessions in getting a straightforward bill passed to make 64-ounce growlers legal.
Instead what has happened is that "Big Beer," in the form of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, has lobbied to insert what critics called poison pills into otherwise relatively straightforward legislation, making the solution worse than the problem for the craft brewing industry. Specifically, Lakeland-based Republican state Senator Kelli Stargell's proposal last spring that would have required craft brewers like Cigar City Brewing's Joey Redner to sell their bottled products to distributors before buying them back to serve at their own establishments was met with outrage.
A subsequent scaled-down version that would have allowed craft breweries that sell more than 1,000 barrels of beer annually to sell only up to 20 percent of their product that goes out the door to customers at their tasting rooms without going through the distributors was also proposed, but never voted on.
The Pacific Legal Foundation's Mark Miller says the growler ban can't be allowed to stand.
“Protecting a powerful industry’s market share isn’t a legitimate reason for government restrictions or regulations," he said in a press release. "It doesn’t justify limiting the economic liberty of other businesses and consumers. Under constitutional guarantees of due process and equal rights, regulations must serve the public interest, not the demands of the well-connected for protectionism.”
Tampa Bay area Republican lawmakers Dana Young and Jeff Brandes have been two of the biggest champions of the local craft brewery movement and have attempted to get the ban on 64 ounce growlers removed in Tallahassee, to no success so far.