Sen. Kelli Stargel files strike-all amendment to SB 1714 — the “Big Beer vs. craft brewers” bill

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State Senator Kelli Stargel has filed a strike-all amendment to SB 1714, the controversial bill that craft brewers say will do great harm to their industry.

According to a release from Stargel’s office, this amendment would authorize small breweries, under 2000 kegs in production, to sell all of their beer either by draft or in growlers or in sealed containers to go with no come-to-rest requirements.

Secondly, the amendment also authorizes breweries to sell up to 20 percent of their annual on-site production in sealed containers to go. In addition, a consumer can buy up to one keg per day from the brewery.

“With the amendment filed today, it is important to note that this bill will still preserve and protect the current three-tier system, while ensuring the expanding craft beer industry is in full legal operation, and not operating in a grey area,” Stargel said.

Unfortunately for craft brewers, the amendment is just “lipstick on a pig,” says Joshua Aubuchon, who represents the Florida Brewers Guild.

“This bill creates a layer of bureaucracy where one currently does not exist,” said Aubuchon.

“Big Beer” interests like InBev want to see craft breweries buy their own beer from distributors at a markup before they can sell cans and bottles to brewery visitors, up to 2,000 kegs per year.  This is the cornerstone of the three-tier system of alcohol distribution the federal government set up after Prohibition ended in the 1930s. It basically ensures that alcoholic beverages are passed through a distributor to get to retailers. Exceptions have been made for purchases where products are produced, like buying wine at a winery or rum at a distillery.

If craft brewers are forced into this three-tier system, those in the industry worry they will be forced to leave the state — or out of business.

In her release, Stargel insists that is not her goal.

“Let me make myself clear, Senate Bill 1714 will not put craft breweries out of business,” said Stargel. “Senate Bill 1714 provides the proper protection for the manufacturing and consumption of alcoholic beverages in our state under the current three-tier system. And, I encourage my fellow colleagues in the Florida Senate to vote in favor of this good amendment.”

As drafted currently, SB 1714 allows breweries to sell draft beer brewed on-site for consumption on the premises, sell draft beer brewed on-site to go in 32-, 64- and 128-ounce growlers and sell draft beer brewed elsewhere on premises (i.e., guest taps).

Amendment barcode #961662 to SB 1714 is slated to be heard on the Senate floor today.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.