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Cheers: House ‘beer glass’ bill clears last committee

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Florida bars and restaurants could be gifted with free branded beer glasses under a bill that’s now ready for the House floor.

The legislation (HB 853) was OK’d Wednesday morning with no debate by the Commerce Committee, its last panel of reference, on a largely party-line vote.

It would allow distributors to give to bars and restaurants up to three cases per year of glasses from brewers that are imprinted with beer names and logos. Now, glasses have to be sold.

The measure has stoked controversy, however. Smaller craft brewers have said they can’t afford to keep up with what will likely be a flood of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light.

Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida, which represents MillerCoors distributors, told lawmakers he was still concerned of a linkage between beer glasses and which beers would be available.

“It’s going to hurt (smaller) brewers in favor of the largest brewer in the world,” he said, referring to Anheuser-Busch. Its lobbyist had previously referred to the bill as “brewer-agnostic.”

Mitch Rubin, head of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents Anheuser-Busch distributors, also remained opposed.

He said the idea of “glasses for taps” is still “inextricably bound” even though the bill now says free glasses can’t be used “as an inducement to (a) retailer to purchase or use” specific brands.

The Senate version (SB 1040) has only one more committee to clear before it can be heard on the floor.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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