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Beer War Brewing Around Tap Room Regulations

Brewing beer at Winter Park's brew-pub 'Cask and Larder'. Photo: Grant Gentry
Brewing beer at Winter Park's brew-pub 'Cask and Larder'. Photo: Grant Gentry

A review of the rules surrounding the sale of beer in Florida is being welcomed by retailers, but craft brewers are worried a rule change could shut out new business.

Florida uses a three-tier distribution system for alcoholic beverages. A business can only do one: manufacture, distribute, or sell alcoholic beverages.

But some craft breweries sell beer onsite, in tasting rooms, using the so-called “Tourism Exception” law.

The Florida Retail Federation sued the Department of Business and Professional Regulation over the law.

The Federation’s general counsel, Samantha Padgett, says it’s unclear who gets the exemption – and why. “You’re talking about a lot of licensees. When you give an exemption to one group and not another – are you affecting competition, is there a fairness issue there,” says Padgett.

Craft beer advocates like the Brewers’ Association Director Paul Gatza, say craft brewers are playing by the rules, and changing the law now would shut out new business. “Wholesalers and retailer federations are more interested in the system of grandfathering current businesses and shutting of those future opportunities.  If they’re successful, I think the result will be fewer jobs created in Florida,” says Gatza.

Gatza says that Florida’s regulations are causing some Florida breweries to look elsewhere when expanding their operations.

The Federation has now dropped the lawsuit after the department said it would address the law at a workshop in March.

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.