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Florida Retailers, Beer Distributors Raise Craft Brewers’ Ire With Challenge To Tasting Room Sales Rules

January 14, 2015

Groups representing Florida retailers and beer wholesalers are taking aim at the state’s laws governing craft brewery tasting room sales. According to the Associated Press, the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) has filed a lawsuit against the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, with support of associations representing Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors distributors. The groups are seeking clarification of Florida’s licensing law that allows brewers to serve draft beer on-site and sell packaged beer for off-premise consumption. Additionally, the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which includes the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits chain, has filed a challenge with the department on the matter.

The FRF is asking the agency to stop issuing retail licenses under the current practice and produce a ruling that better explains the law, which it says was originally passed to allow Anheuser-Busch to sell beer at the Busch Gardens theme park—under a so-called “tourist exception” to the three-tier system—when it was owned by the brewer. The retail federation says the state legislature would need to take up the matter if the agency fails to clarify how the law should be applied. Craft brewers fear that the challenge to the licensing practices amounts to an attempt to undermine their tasting room sales, which account for a significant portion of revenue, especially for the smallest brewers.

On another matter of concern for Florida’s craft industry, beer distributors have said they wouldn’t fight a bill legalizing 64-ounce growler sales, which is considered a top priority for the state’s brewers. Florida is now home to almost 90 craft breweries, up from six in 2007.

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