Florida Governor Rick Scott Backs Controversial Growler Legalization

Whether Scott signs a bill to allow 64-ounce growler sales at Florida craft breweries is yet to be determined.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Florida's craft breweries lost a battle with Budweiser distributors as a bill that would hurt the growing Florida beer industry cleared its final Senate stop before a full chamber vote. NBC 6's Justin Finch reports.

    Gov. Rick Scott said he supports the legalization of the refillable half-gallon beer containers known as growlers among craft beer lovers.

    But Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Tuesday whether he signs a bill to allow 64-ounce growler sales at Florida craft breweries is still to be determined.

    Oakland Park's Funky Buddha Brewery is one of the local breweries that could be impacted by the bill.

    The measure, opponents say, could end up limiting craft beer sales and also limit the industry's future in the Sunshine State.

    "People want choice. They want better options, and that's what we're providing," said John Linn, brand director at Funky Buddha.

    What began as a statewide push to sell craft beer in industry-standard 64-ounce growlers has turned into a beer battleground in Tallahassee, Linn explained.

    On one side is a collection of state lawmakers, who some craft beer insiders believe are backed by big beer distributors in an effort to curb craft beer sales with SB 1714.

    On the other side, the state's growing craft industry which views the bill as a buzzkill.

    "I think they're trying to, you know, cripple the growth of craft beer in the state, frankly," Linn said. "I think they see us as a threat to traditional national brand sales."

    SB 1714 would cap craft brew growler sales at 2,000 kegs per year, and would barely allow starting craft brew houses to break in.

    Craft beer representatives said the proposed cap is grossly below larger craft beer companies like Sam Adams, and well below major commercial beer brands.

    Once craft brew houses reach the maximum, they would be prohibited from direct customer sales of bottled or canned beer.

    In short, SB 1714 would make a brew house sell their beer to a distributor, and then, buy back that beer at a mark up, before reselling it to their customers.

    The beer, in theory, may never have to change hands and could stay in the brewery Linn especially questions that part proposal.

    "You're going to basically pay us for beer you're going to sell,” Linn said. “It sounds an awful lot like racketeering."

    A check of campaign donations show the bill's backers, including sponsor State Rep. Ray Rodrigues of Estero, received at least $2500 from four beer distributors in 2012, two are from South Florida.

    NBC6 is awaiting comment from Rep. Rodrigues office regarding SB1714.

    Meantime, opinions on the state's craft beer crossroads abound at Funky Buddha, and almost all believe there's more than beer at stake.

    "If you want a Bud Light, don't come here," said Funky Buddha patron Robin Ramp. "If you want a few beers that are made in the community, that are giving people jobs, why would you try to get rid of that?"

    "This is America, and small companies like this should be allowed to flourish," added fellow patron Rozi Mohammed.