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

Jan 13, 2015
Originally published on January 13, 2015 4:07 pm

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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