Local microbreweries fight Senate Bill 1714

A major battle over beer is brewing here in the Tampa Bay area. 
 
"I mean, I'm pissed," said David Doble, the co-owner of Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
 
Doble just returned from a trip to Tallahassee where he argued on behalf of his business and others like it. Several local microbreweries are fighting SB 1714 - a malt beverages bill that's currently working its way through the state legislature.
 
Doble says if the bill passes, he's done.
 
"If this bill were to pass, it's going to crush everything that we have slaved away for," Doble said. "This bill could actually close us down."
 
The bill in question would legalize 64-ounce growlers, but it would also ban brewers that produce more than 2,000 kegs a year from selling their bottles and cans directly. Instead, they'd have to go through a distributor who would sell it back to them at a marked up price.
 
"Based on what we sold last year, it would take $175,000 out of my bank account and give it to my distributor," said Cigar City Brewing founder Joey Redner. 
 
Last year, Cigar City Brewing produced just under 70,000 kegs.
 
According to the bill's proponents, including sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel, these microbreweries are currently operating in an ambiguous loophole outside of Florida's three-tier system.
 
"We're trying to figure out, you know, which of the three tiers do you want to operate in?" said Stargel, R-Lakeland. "Do you want to be a vendor or do you want to be a brewer? But if you're going to be this blend there needs to be some amount of regulation there to make sure it's fair for other bars."
 
But guys like Ryan Dowdle say it's the opposite of fair. 
 
Dowdle was planning to open a microbrewery, called Angry Chair Brewing, this summer in Seminole Heights. He says this bill is drastically impacting his business model.
 
"They're seriously inhibiting what we're going to be able to do," Dowdle said. "It's just sad. I just wish they would look at it and say this makes no sense."
 
At Wednesday's county commission meeting, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is planning to introduce an agenda item recommending the commission send a letter to the legislative delegation in support of the craft brewing industry's efforts.
 
The next stop for SB 1714 is the Senate floor.

 

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