Fla. Gov. Scott backs growler legalization

Florida Gov. Scott supports legalization of half-gallon beer growlers sought by craft brewers

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott supports the legalization of the refillable half-gallon beer containers that craft beer lovers call growlers, his office said Tuesday.

The growler issue has been in the middle of a bitter fight between Florida's craft breweries and Budweiser distributors who only want the half-gallon growlers legalized in a bill that adds more regulation to the rapidly growing craft beer industry.

Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Tuesday whether he signs a bill to allow 64-ounce growler sales at Florida craft breweries is still to be determined. It will depend on the language that gets to his desk.

Breweries can now sell unlimited gallon and quart growlers, but Florida's odd container laws prohibit the half-gallon size that's the industry standard in 47 states. Legalizing the half-gallon size is the top priority this legislative session for the booming craft beer industry.

But a Senate bill (SB 1714) ties the growler size to more regulation that brewers say would hurt the craft beer industry and slow its growth. It includes language that would force all but the smallest breweries to buy their own bottles and cans of beers from distributors before they can sell them to brewery visitors. They now can sell bottles and cans without going through a distributor.

That bill is backed by Anheuser-Busch InBev distributors who don't want the breweries to be able to directly sell beer to visitors. MillerCoors distributors oppose the Senate bill and support legislation that simply allows half-gallon growlers.

A House bill (HB 283) sponsored by Republican Reps. Dana Young of Tampa and Frank Artiles of Miami would allow 64-ounce growlers with no strings attached.

"The governor has always been a strong advocate for small business people and the little guy and it's great to have him on the team," said Young. "He understands that some regulations are important for business, but when you over regulate, it hurts business."

The fact that Scott has repeatedly said he opposes regulations that cost jobs gives brewers hope that he won't sign a bill to legalize growlers if it also hurts the industry which has grown from six craft breweries in 2007 to an expected 80 by the end of this year.

"From day one when he said no more rulemaking, it seems like he's on a less regulation, less red tape kick," said Josh Aubuchon, a lobbyist who represents craft brewers, who added the current law is baffling. "It seems like such a crazy regulation that really has no bearing on logic."

Scott's position also assures the growler issue won't be a campaign issue. Earlier Tuesday, former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican turned Democrat who is hoping to win his old job back, also said he supports legalization of growlers, saying, "Let freedom ring."

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Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bsfarrington

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