State News
6:14 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

Fla. Breweries, Wineries And Distilleries Have Cause To Raise A Glass

Credit Erich Martin

The local makers of adult beverages in Florida have reason to be in high spirits this week as three bills that would make it easier for craft breweries, distilleries and wineries to sell their products got legislative hearings.

Florida’s  home-grown adult beverage market is a job grower in the state of Florida. That’s the argument Representative Ronald Renuart (R-Ponte Vedra Beach) is making for his measure to let craft distilleries sell their product in bottles.

“When a distiller manufactures their product, it says Florida on the outside of the bottle, but it’s what’s inside the bottle that really makes a difference. Inside it’s Florida agriculture. Inside it’s Florida manufacturing. Inside, it’s small business and free enterprise,” Renuart said.

Renuart’s measure had run into some trouble with wholesalers and distributors raising concerns the measure would hurt their businesses. But after Renuart amended his measure to reduce the number of bottles a craft distillery would be allowed to sell to two, the measure passed out of the committee. The bill would also require that any sales happen face-to-face. A similar measure has not yet been heard in the Senate. But a measure that would allow the sale of beer in larger, 64-ounce containers, known as growlers is getting the attention of senators. Senator Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) is behind the measure, which got a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries committee Thursday.

“What this is is really a jobs bill. It’s a business development bill. It’s one of our growing industries that we have," Latvalla said.

Right now, Florida law allows the sale of beer in 32 ounce containers and gallon containers. Latvala said the 64 ounce container he’s proposing is just something in the middle. But Senator Maria Sascha, a Democrat from Delray Beach, said she’s concerned the measure is more complicated than it appears.

“When we get into alcoholic beverages and distribution and sales of alcoholic beverages in the state, I think it’s a discussion that we need to look at all aspects of it," Sachs said.

Latvala said he’s willing to work with all stakeholders involved, but he adds he’s not confident the bill will pass this year.

Meanwhile, a bill authored by Representative Franks Artiles (R-Miami) that would allow the sale of wine in 5-gallon containers got a full floor vote Friday. It passed with no “no” votes. A similar bill is moving through the Senate.

For more news updates, follow @regan_mccarthy on twitter!