Recently, Florida Beer News had the opportunity to speak with Josh Aubuchon, the lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild, who has worked on getting the 64oz growler bill passed through the House and Senate during this legislative session. Josh wanted to speak about the bill, its language, its popular and its unpopular points, as well as a few nods to the future of Florida’s craft beer.
FBN: Thanks for taking some time to discuss this bill, Josh. After so many attempts, what did it take to get the 64oz growler bill passed this time around?
JA: Getting the bill passed this time around was a concerted effort. We knew that we had to focus on getting the bill passed as early as possible. We kept in touch with leadership in both chambers, we sat down with them and answered all questions, making sure that our side was clear and that there were no surprises in the bill. And it was a good thing that we did; this is the first time since the 1960s that the two chambers ended their sessions on different days. If we had not had the bill passed, then it would have died during this session.
FBN: What gains have Florida brewers made with this bill?
JA: Well, we were operating tasting rooms under a technical loophole in the law. That loophole has now been eliminated and now any brewery can have up to eight (8) licenses under the law. While there has been talk and concern about this number being relatively low, no brewery in the state has more than two licenses currently operating. Cigar City has the most, currently operating with two licenses. After this session, the legislators have come out respecting the craft brewers of the state as honest and upfront individuals, and they did not seem opposed to possibly raising the cap when the time was right.
This is a very positive situation for craft brewers- they have limits on licensing, but they are generous. Wineries and distilleries have more stringent regulations to date and breweries still have unlimited sales.
FBN: At the end of the day there is a transfer cap, correct?
JA: That is correct, but its limits go like this: If I have two breweries and one of them produces one million barrels and one of them produces one thousand barrels, then I can transfer as much as the SMALLER brewery makes, in the case of the example this would be one thousand barrels.
FBN: How does the Guild feel about the bill?
JA: The Guild supports the provisions of the bill, realizing that the bill is not perfect, but few legislative endeavors ever are. While no one likes caps, caps can be worked with in the future, and this is a start.
In the end, this bill:
*Legalizes 64oz growlers,
*Removes the tourism exemption,
*Caps licensure, and
As far as the legislative process this time, we made it through committee without excessive markup on the bill and we gained ground for honest lobbying. The representatives and senators now see the craft brewers of the state as business owners and as men and women out to protect their livelihood with this issue. The legislators saw our side working with three people to get this bill passed and we were able to win support and ultimately get the bill into law.
FBN: So what then is next for the lobbying arm of the Florida Brewers Guild? Are there any future bills that we should keep an eye out for?
JA: We have made some great strides in this legislative session, and we have definite plans for the future, we are going to take this bill as a first touchdown and consult with the board. The work has begun and the Guild is going to continue to push for the rights of Florida’s craft breweries.
Thanks for your time, Josh. This clears up a few issues and hopefully puts some insight through the internet. Cheers!