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Florida's Craft Beer Industry Wary A New Challenge May Be Brewing

Proof Brewing Company's vats at the Railroad Square brewery.
Nick Evans
/
Proof Brewing Company's vats at the Railroad Square brewery.
Proof Brewing Company's vats at the Railroad Square brewery.
Credit Nick Evans
/
Proof Brewing Company's vats at the Railroad Square brewery.

Beer distribution interests in Florida have launched a legal attack against a well-established exception to the state’s three-tier system.  The ‘Tourism Exception’ allows brewers licensed for manufacturing beer to sell it directly to the public. 

In Florida, alcohol distribution is split into three tiers: manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.  An exception to the system lets breweries combine manufacturing and selling under a single roof—as long as it promotes tourism.  Byron Burroughs, co-founder of Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Company says the allowance is very important for the craft brewers—especially early on.

“By doing away with this ability to have a tasting room, or make a slightly higher margin on products that you sell to your customers as samples, or minimal amounts of retail, it would force you to come in and try and tackle a sole distribution model, and that’s a very difficult one to do,” Burroughs says.

The lawsuit, launched by the Florida Retail Federation, argues the state agency responsible for licensing has no metric for determining if an applicant promotes tourism.   The legislature established the  exception to allow attractions like Busch Gardens to sell alcohol. 

Ironically, the distributors bringing the challenge deal primarily with major domestic brewers like Budweiser—the same brewer the accommodation was developed to support.

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Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.
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