Florida House and Senate subcommittees heard testimony Wednesday from stakeholders in the state’s beer industry. After failing twice, a bill to legalize a popular refillable bottle is up for a third try.
Lobbyists representing major Florida beer distributors walked a tightrope Wednesday expressing support for a limited rollback of the state’s bottle size restrictions while also opposing deregulatory moves in general. Eric Criss President of the Beer Industry of Florida says part of the reason is economic—more bottle sizes makes it more difficult for a distributor to automate. But he also has a public health angle. In an argument reminiscent of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Big Gulp proposal, Criss defends the idea behind Florida’s prohibition of bottles between 32 ounces and a gallon.
“I’m not saying we’re concerned about gallon containers,” Criss says. “What I’m saying is most people don’t drink gallon containers of beer, and my view is that it was envisioned in the statute not to be a sort of single serve. But now we’re talking about deregulating what the single serve sizes are.”
And Mitch Rubin of the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association echoes that sentiment.
“Really the 64 ounce container is a sharing size package,” Rubin says, “it’s for more than one person and the 32 ounce is the maximum individual size.”
But long-serving Miami Democrat Gwen Margolis says the restriction’s intent is far simpler than that.
“I was here a long time ago when this all happened, and it all happened because the distributors were losing money,” Margolis says. “The distributors when the large bottles were sold were losing money, so that’s when they started to negotiate the smaller bottles.”
Despite Criss and Rubin’s claims of support for growler legislation, many in the craft brewing camp don’t buy it, suggesting the issue would have been resolved if distributors backed it.