Florida Brewers face opposition to growlers and growth

Florida Breweries are seeking to legalize 64-oz growlers in the Sunshine State. While a bill to do so gained momentum in the previous legislative session, it was killed in committee. During the current legislative session, a bill was filed and passed committee in the House, but a future in the Senate is currently uncertain.

Republican Don Gaetz, a self-proclaimed anti-regulation and pro-free market politician has recently come out in opposition to growlers on behalf of his local Budweiser distributor. According to the Miami Herald:

While that sounds at odds with his principles, Gaetz acknowledged he will support whatever Anheuser-Busch InBev distributor Lewis Bear tells him to support.

“I’m with the beer distributors in my district,” Gaetz said recently. “That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

Bear, his company and his family have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political committees and candidates, including more than $260,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $31,000 to GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign committee.

These comments would be disturbing alone, but combined with the filing of HB 1329 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues of South Florida, they mark an alarming trend of Budweiser distributors fighting against the state’s small breweries. This comes in light of news that Tampa’s Tom Pepin (owner of Pepin Distributing) has contributed thousands of dollars to Rodrigues’s campaign in addition to hundreds contributed by Gold Coast Beverage, Coastal Beverage, and other AB-InBev sponsored groups.

In all of their lobbying efforts in Florida and elsewhere, AB-InBev has spent a total of $4 million.

With the exception of Gold Coast Beverage’s support for Rep. Rodrigues, only Budweiser distributors have taken up this fight against Florida’s craft brewers, as MillerCoors distributors have been supportive of 64-oz growlers.

When contacted for comment and discussion, Rodrigues did not return calls from either the Herald or from brewers interested in talking over his bill.

For more information, see the original Herald article here.