Jack Latvala to introduce new growler legislation

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In 2013, Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala introduced a succinctly written bill that would have brought Florida into compliance with nearly every other state in the country in allowing for the sale of 64-ounce growlers to be sold in Florida craft breweries. The straight-forward legislation amounted to only two lines on a piece of paper.

But soon the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association (FBWA) intervened, and a nearly 12-page amendment to his modest bill was soon attached by state Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach). That amendment would have allowed 64-ounce growlers to be sold, but it also would have restricted take-home sales to only extremely small craft breweries. Though the Senate Regulated Industries Committee refused to consider the amendment, the bill ultimately died.

Before the 2014 legislative session began, Latvala announced that he would once again bring such legislation forward. But once again the bill was derailed thanks to the FBWA’s intervention. The organization pushed for a bill (sponsored by Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel) in the Senate that would require microbreweries in the state selling more than 2,000 kegs per year of their own brew to distribute their bottled and canned products through an established distributorship and then have to buy back their own product (at marked-up prices) to sell to their customers. There was fierce opposition from the craft breweries, from craft beer fans and from other Republicans in the Legislature.

But might the third time be the charm? The odds of that are looking better in 2015, now that Mitch Rubin, the executive director of the FBWA, announced last week that his organization is supporting lifting the restriction on 64-ounce growlers, and he promises that this time he won’t call for additional protections to the three-tier system of distribution.

Rubin wrote in a press release last week that the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association supports the following:

  • Creating a new section of law that expressly authorizes and governs growlers — separate from manufacturer-sealed containers
  • Authorizes 32-, 64- and 128-ounce growlers made of glass, ceramic or metal
  • Requires sanitation and room for expansion to prevent explosions for product integrity and public health
  • Requires seals and labels for local zoning, open container and public health

Latvala will introduce the specifics of his proposal on Tuesday afternoon at the Dunedin Brewery. He’ll be accompanied by recently elected state Rep. Chris Sprowls, who will be introducing the legislation in the House.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.