SB 1714 – What a Buzz Kill

Like when your mom volunteered to chaperone your senior year class trip, SB 1714 is a real downer for the Florida craft beer industry.

The bill as amended would seriously restrict the ability of Florida’s breweries to sell their wares directly to consumers.  In many cases, it would increase the cost of doing business by requiring breweries to sell their bottled concoctions to a beer distributor before buying it back at a marked up cost.  Only then could the breweries sell it in-house.

While not technically a fee, Senator Jack Latvala (R- Clearwater) equated it to “paying protection to Vinnie in New York.”  Bill sponsor, Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) admitted in the Senate Community Affairs committee that craft breweries aren’t paying this cost now, which means this bill represents a brand new fee on Florida’s businesses.

Senator Stargel asserts vulnerability of her preferred three-tier system: manufacturer, distributor, and vendor.  If breweries are allowed to sell directly to consumers, the argument goes, what’ll come of the other tiers!?  It’s essential, she continues, for government to step in and regulate the way these companies do business.

Gone would be the days of driving to Tampa for my (Cigar City) Jai Alai, Gainesville for my (Swamp Head) Stump Knocker, and Tallahassee for my (Proof) Robust Porter.  I guess I’ll have to settle for the convenience and gas efficiency of my corner ABC store.

Senator Stargel – climate change champion!

Although, using Stargel’s logic, one has to wonder if homebrewers might at some point find themselves on the radar.  Homebrewing is an increasingly popular hobby, and one can’t deny the risk that it poses to the three tiers.  If people are making and drinking their own beer, the entire framework of the tiers may very well collapse.

Given this imminent danger, I was curious to know whether this three-tier logic applied elsewhere in Florida.  I reached out to the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, and was informed that Florida farmers are not required to pay an additional fee or tax to sell their products directly to the consumer.

It sounds like Publix needs better lobbyists.

But regardless of that threat, it would be surprising if Governor Scott gives Stargel his stamp of approval.  The Governor has been very consistent in his opposition to any new fees and taxes on Florida’s businesses.

You might recall last session when Governor Scott vetoed HB 265, which would have increased the fee for purchasing a wildflower license plate by $10.  Heck, one of the Administration’s primary goals this year has been to return $500 million in fees and taxes back to the “Florida families and job creators.”

SB 1714 reeks of cumbersome regulation and poorly veiled attempts to monopolize the burgeoning craft beer industry of Florida.  If a companion bill makes it through the House, that alone should beckon the Governor’s veto.


Follow me on Twitter at Patience Burke@TameTheGorilla.

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