The Tourism Exception and Florida Breweries

Uh oh. I don’t get a good feeling when I go to one of my favorite local breweries’ websites and see an open letter. Open letters mean serious business.

However, if all we looked for were the fun aspects of beer, we wouldn’t have any beer to buy. Someone’s gotta pay attention to the business side.

The founder of Intuition Ale Works, Ben Davis, posted a letter on his breweries’ homepage. In it, he talks about a legal challenge filed by the Florida Independent Spirits Association towards the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations. No, the Florida Independent Spirits Association (FISA) is not a trade group for paranormal entities. That would be cool, though. It’s a lobbying group representing alcohol retailers. Per their website, their “founding set of guidelines…is advocacy for independent alcohol retailers in the State of Florida.”

Ben considers the organizers of the petition to be “strongly opposed to the way [Intuition’s] taprooms currently operate.” He says that now they can sell beer directly to their supporters, but the opposition would have them sell their beer “to a distributor and then buy it back, at a markup, before [they] can sell it to [the consumer]. “

The Florida Retail Federation (FRF), which has also filed a petition, released a statement that they are seeking clarification regarding the tourism law and how it pertains to craft breweries. The “Tourist Exception,” which is the law that allows Anheuser-Busch to sell beer at Busch-Gardens, is the question.

The best source of legal information I’ve found regarding this issue has been at the website for Komlossy Law. Whereas I can talk for hours about what I think and feel, they have a more concise and accurate view of the issue than I could hope for.

Florida breweries, for the most part, believe that this issue affects all Florida breweries, not just start-ups. The Florida Brewers Guild has published a statement to this effect. They also have a good breakdown of the issue here. They consider the outcome to be so integral to the health of the industry, that they urge readers on their homepage to “save Florida’s craft brewers” by going to an Indiegogo campaign.

Mike Halker, president of the Florida Brewers Guild and Due South Brewing, wrote an in depth article about the situation. He goes so far as to say that this challenge is also meant to keep brewers and craft beer enthusiasts busy, so that no one pays any attention to other issues affecting the craft beer industry: “If they keep us distracted with things like keeping our tasting rooms open, they think we won’t be attempting to get things like limited self-distribution or franchise law reform.”

Per Komlassy Law’s Twitter account, the hearing is set for February 9th and 10th. Perhaps we should all clutch our growlers for good luck.

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