Florida Beverage Industry Bills Update – April 20, 2014

 Happy Easter! With most legislators out of Tallahassee this past 2014-04-19 18.48.19week, there was not much action on the beverage bills being consider by the Florida Legislature. That will change come Monday, when legislators return for the two-week sprint to the end of the 2014 session.

The two Senate beverage bills showing signs of life–SB 470 and SB 1714–are both up for hearings next week. We’ll preview those hearings and focus particularly on the most recent proposed amendments to Senate Bill 1714. Please let us know what you think in our Replies Section. Subscribe to BrewersLaw.com to stay informed.

New Amendment to Senate Bill 1714–Better or Worse?

Senate Bill 1714, which would usher in sweeping changes to how Florida’s breweries make direct sales to consumers, is scheduled for hearing by the Senate Rules Committee at 1 pm on Monday, April 21, 2014. The hearing will be broadcast on thefloridachannel.org. Senate Bill 1714 (the successor to SPB 7120) has now been approved by the Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee and the Community Affairs Committee.

Leading up to the Rules Committee hearing, two proposed amendments to SB 1714 have been filed. Minority Leader Christopher Smith’s amendment (Reference No. 635126) would simply authorize retailers licensed to sell beer for carry-out to sell cans or bottles of up to 64 oz (up from 32 oz). Smith’s amendment is not likely to get much attention at the hearing. Most of the attention will go to the other proposed amendment, filed by Senator Andy Gardiner.

Although a strike-all amendment, Senator Andy Gardiner’s amendment (Reference No. 497306) does more to reorganize Senate Bill 1714 than to substantially change it. However, Gardiner’s amendment offers a few discussion-worthy changes.

In Gardiner’s amendment of SB 1714, breweries would still be prohibited Florida breweries from selling pre-packaged containers of their own beer, with a new exception. Breweries that brew less than 2,000 kegs of beer annually would be permitted to sell cans or bottles of their own beer. Two thousand kegs equates to 1,000 barrels or 31,000 gallons of beer. Based on numbers available from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (the ABT), only 4 Florida breweries not named “Anheuser Busch” made more than 31,000 gallons of beer in 2013: Cigar City Brewing, Tequesta Brewing Co., Dunedin Brewery, and Tampa Bay Brewing Co. For 2014, it’s likely that at least 4 more Florida breweries will join the 31,000 gallons plus list: Bold City Brewery, Swamp Head Brewery, Funky Buddha Brewery, and Green Room Brewing. These breweries would be prohibited from selling cans or bottles of its own beer without going through a distributor, pursuant to Gardiner’s amendment to SB 1714. All other Florida breweries could sell their cans and bottles directly to consumers, so long as production levels stay under 31,000 gallons annually.

Gardiner’s amendment would make a few other noteworthy changes to Senate Bill 1714. Brewery taprooms that held a full-liquor quota license before March 1, 2014 could sell bottled or canned beer for carry-out, as long as it came from a distributor. The amendment would authorize growler sizes of 32 oz, 64 oz, or 128 oz only. Breweries under common ownership would be prohibited from transporting beer between locations, unless it first comes-to-rest with a distributor. Lastly, distributors would be permitted to clean draft equipment provided to retailers for free.

Will the Rules Committee hearing on Senate Bill 1714, and Gardiner’s proposed amendment, be dramatic, scripted, or both? Senator Jack Latvala, who cast the only dissenting vote against SB 1714, is also a member of the Rules Committee, so it’s possible that he could speak against it. However, this is the third Senate committee to consider SB 1714 or its predecessor, and the result has been the same the prior two hearings. Senate Bill 1714 keeps rolling on.

Beer Tastings May Be Coming

Senate Bill 470 goes before the Appropriations Committee for hearing at 9 am on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. Senate Bill 470 would allow beer tastings to be conducted at package stores. Following an amendment to bring its text in line with its companion, House Bill 387, not much activity has surrounded SB 470. It looks like SB 470 (and HB 387) might get a vote on the floor in the next two weeks.

Next week, we’ll report on the results of the hearings on Senate Bills 470 and 1714, and we will hopefully have something to report on the remaining House bills–HB 387 and HB 1329. We’ll be entering the last week of the 2014 legislative session, so we’ll focus on what need sto happen by May 2 in order to see any of the Florida beverage bills pass.