Yay, beer!: growler bill clears House and Senate is headed for Governor Scott

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click to enlarge Yay, beer!: growler bill clears House and Senate is headed for Governor Scott - flickr user TheDigitel Beaufort
flickr user TheDigitel Beaufort
Yay, beer!: growler bill clears House and Senate is headed for Governor Scott

Who says the Florida Legislature can't come together in Tallahassee to pass some truly meaningful bills that will have a positive impact on many Floridians?

Okay, so we're not talking about accepting $51 billion in federal money to extend health coverage to a million people or buying US Sugar land to embark on Everglades restoration. But state lawmakers in the State Senate and its more conservative counterpart, the State House, have come together to pass a bill everyone likes; one that ends a state ban on 64-ounce beer growlers, the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner is reporting.

The arbitrariness of such a ban is pretty obvious when one considers that 32-ounce and gallon-size growlers are actually legal.

If you're from the Tampa Bay area, you can feel extra special, as the House and Senate sponsors of the bill ending the growler ban, State Rep. Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) and State Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) are both local guys. (If you'll recall, we were at the press conference the two held at Dunedin Brewery when the bills were filed and we made this fun blog post for you.)

"Let's all just push the button and free the growler here in the state of Florida," Majority Leader Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, said before the House voted unanimously to approve the bill.

Unanimously? Wow. State House, while we're still mad at you over the Medicaid thing and the Everglades thing and the abortion waiting period thing and all the gun stuff, we're pretty impressed.

Sprowls said the legislation allows "entrepreneurs, artists, people who care about innovation and business, to continue to prosper in our state" while reversing an outdated policy born out of the Depression Era three-tier system for distributing alcohol. Breweries have been operating tasting rooms and selling beer in growlers under a loophole created for tourist attractions, and the bill would allow breweries to operate a number of tasting rooms without use of the tourism exemption.

The bill will now go to the governor's desk for his signature. Last winter Latvala told us it shouldn't have any trouble there, but one can never know.

A spokeswoman has said Scott "will review the bill once it reaches his desk," reports Turner.

While it originated as a straightforward repeal of the 64-ounce growler ban, a few things got tacked on. The bill now limits the allowable serving size at beer tastings to 3.5 ounces per sample. Oh, and, perhaps to make it more palatable to Scott, the bill also contains a random screw you to poor people; a ban on "the use of electronic-benefits transfer cards — formerly known as food stamps — to buy alcoholic beverages," which is already illegal.

Although the bill didn't have many critics, one was Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat and former drug addict who supported the bill, but said he's wary of making alcohol in varying qualities easy to purchase.

"And yes … 64 ounces is not enough for a true professional drinker, but it's a crack in the door," he said.

Oh, because they don't sell hard liquor in huge jugs anywhere at all, do they?

The bill also limits the number of tap rooms a brewer can operate to eight for some reason.

Byron Burroughs, a founder of Proof Brewing Co. in Tallahassee and a Florida Brewers Guild board member, told the News Service of Florida that some brewers may be upset at the cap, but he has a more optimistic view of the bill.

"The distributor lobbyists have been doing everything they can to stop the number of licenses we can hold, the amount of beer we can transfer between locations," Burroughs said. "The most important aspect of this bill defines what we can and can't do. I think it puts us in a much stronger position to reinvest and grow."

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