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Growler bill gets sent to the House with add-ons

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The Florida Senate has sent a growler bill to the House for consideration. The Senate approved 38-0 a revised growler bill that would allow Florida craft breweries to sell 64-ounce growlers.

Current law allows the larger one-gallon size and the smaller quart size, but not the most popular half-gallon containers.

The version of the bill approved by the Senate would also prohibit the use of electronic benefit transfer cards to purchase alcoholic beverages, decrease the number of vendor licenses from nine to eight and requires tastings in tasting rooms to be served in containers 3.5 ounces or less.

The bill also provides language clarifying that it is not unlawful for a person to transfer or possess full or empty growlers.

“We felt this might be necessary with respect to our open container law that we have in Florida,” said bill sponsor state Sen. Jack Latvala. “If someone has an open growler, even if it doesn’t have any product in it, we want to make it clear that they could take the growler into the brewer to fill it up.”

Senate Bill 186 also removes an onerous vehicle permit requirement. Under that provision, a retailer would no longer have to obtain permits for an employee to pick up alcoholic beverages from a distributor.

It also addresses craft distilleries by increasing the number of containers purchased each year from two to four.

The bill’s passage came after a rare strike-all amendment that deleted everything in the bill debated and passed so far. Latvala said the move was to “facilitate our negotiations on the other end of the hall.”

That announcement was met by a chorus of groans and boos from the Senate floor as Latvala was clearly referencing the obstinate House. The changes were aimed at making the bill more palatable for the conservative House.

“I’m not going to represent that the House has agreed to it,” he said, noting he hopes the changes will get the bill closer to the finish line.

The new language added the EBT prohibition and reduction in vendor permits. It also added what Latvala described as “comfort language” ensuring tastings were limited to smaller containers.

Latvala called the measure “beer bill 2015.” It’s an issue that has been taken up for several years, but has failed to pass both chambers.

The bill, as written, would allow craft breweries to move their own brews between locations. That would allow breweries that have tasting rooms in one location, but not another, to send its own beer to that facility.

However, it would require beers from outside companies sold in those tasting rooms to be processed through a distributor under the state’s three-tiered system.

While the bill was originally intended to just focus on the growler issue, the extra add-ons were necessary to appease all sides of the issue.

“It started as a simple growler bill to allow Florida to not be the only state in America where you could not buy a 64-ounce growler,” Latvala said.

As of right now, Florida is the last state that does not allow craft breweries to sell the half-gallon growlers.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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