To say we're a little angry today is a bit of an understatement. By now you've read that Senate Bill 1714 (aka: the Craft Beer Killer Bill...er) passed through the Florida Senate by a vote of 30-10. As dismaying the supportive faction was, we were absolutely outraged by some of the comments made by the bill's sponsor (Sen. Kelli Stargel - R.) and those of senators that voiced their uninformed support (see Sen. Walter Simpson & Sen. Darren Soto as exhibits A & B). The combination of sensible policymaking hitting a brick GOP regulatory wall and the spread of misinformation was bad enough; but hearing Sen. Stargel compare craft brewers to her disorderly children put us over the edge. Basically, we're a group of rowdy kids hopped up on sugar that want to stay up past their bedtime, but Mama Stargell knows best. Getting too involved with politics might be bad for one's health. Then you see a graphic like this and the collective blood pressure goes into the red:
The short & skinny - SB1714 was amended to do the following:
- Allow beer-to-go to be sold in containers sized 32 oz, 64 oz and 128 oz (whoopdie doo)
- Reduce the brewing license bond breweries are required to hold from $20,000 to $5,000
- Exempt breweries producing 2,000 kegs (1,000 bbls) or less from having to utilize a distributor to sell on-site packaged product (i.e. bottles & cans)
- Require breweries producing anything above 2,000 kegs to utilize a distributor for 80% of their packaged product
Essentially, the FL Senate (mostly Republican) voted to increase regulation (huh?) for a booming economic driver, tactfully stating that they were "clarifying" the law and removing the tourism exemption craft breweries in FL have been utilizing for the past 50 years, when Anheuser-Busch first pushed to allow for beer to be served onsite at Busch Gardens (ironic, right?). Stargel believes that breweries shouldn't be operating under this exemption because they don't promote tourism. Think Asheville, NC or Fort Collins, CO might have something to say about that? Stargel also believes that breweries operating under the current law are a threat to the three-tier system (separation of breweries, distributors & vendors) - but pushed to give increased strength to the distribution tier by increasing regulations to an already highly-regulated industry. Yayyyy.
What grinds our gears is the notion that once you hit a certain threshold (i.e. 2,000 kegs) you belong in the same group as Anheuser-Busch or Boston Brewing Company (Sam Adams) - hell, Boston Brewing Company doesn't even belong in the same category as AB! AB annually produces over 120 MILLION bbls per year. Sam Adams, by comparison, produces two million. Makes total sense, if you ask us. Sen. Simpson voiced his support of the bill by saying that 2,000 is a lot and once a brewery hits that threshold, they're not a small business anymore. Forgive my SCOFF at your inaccurate point, Sen. Simpson. That's freakin' ludicrous! Sen. Soto, who couldn't even remember the brewery that produces his favorite beer (hint hint, it rhymes with Shigar Spitty), was initially concerned about the increased regulation - but he voted in favor of it previously anyways.
Then, the last part that really made us angry, was the wildly inappropriate and misguided assumption Sen. Stargel stated that "increased production and increased consumption go hand-in-hand." As a former postsecondary education lifer - I've had my fair share of stats courses. What Senator Stargel is saying is that the more beer Florida breweries produce, the more you, my dear readers, will drink - leading to alcoholism. Flawless logic, no? Sen. Stargel, you are assuming a correlation between increased production and increased consumption - with no facts to back up said assumption. Speaking in those terms is dangerous at best. Oh, and not to mention wildly inaccurate.
I do want to quickly thank those 10 sensible senators that voted in craft beer's favor - especially Sen. Jack Latvala and Sen. Joyner - who were the loudest in opposition. All isn't lost though - there's not a house companion bill and it's unlikely that SB1714 or something like it will actually get signed into law by Gov. Scott (who's in favor of the 64 oz growler but not in favor of jeopardizing jobs in the state of FL). What it does signify, however, is the level of desperation the enemies of craft beer will go to in an attempt to address their profit losses. Can't buy 'em out or absorb 'em? Let's lobby the crap out of their already highly-regulated laws. That'll put money back in our pocket...somehow.
But I trust in you, dear readers. You are the voice. You are the voters. You are just as strong as we are in this fight - and it will be a fight. If this doesn't become a reality by the close of the 2014 Legislative Session, you can absolutely expect to see folks like Kelli Stargel and Ray Rodrigues putting out horrible bills (completely contradictory to their party line, by the by), in each session for the forseeable future. Let's teach them a lesson with our votes, with our voice. We're pumped that you value true local businesses over heavy internationally owned corporate influence. It gives us hope for GrassLands' future, as well as that of the Florida brewing industry. Let's do as a state what Portland, Oregon has already done! Wouldn't that be freakin' awesome? We're up for the task...all the way from the front lines. #RALLYROUNDTHEFAMILY
Okay, we'll leave you to it for now. Have an absolutely wonderful weekend (with a craft beer in hand), dear readers, because you most definitely deserve it! (Hops off soapbox...for now)