I’m going to rant a bit. I spent a couple hours tonight brewing what promises to be a rather tasty IPA, and I’m tired. I sit down at my computer to do a little reading before bed, and this story pops up.
Let’s say, just for sake of argument, that I’m in a mood to be charitable with Florida Republicans tonight (Protip: I’m not, except for State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. He’s fighting this bill. I’m shocked, amazed, and quite pleased. That’s a conservative I can support! At least regarding this). At best, SB 1714 is a flagrant example of more burdensome regulations that they’re always decrying. At worst, it’s flagrant cronyism and pandering to special interests who’ve lined their campaign coffers with cash via PACs (beer distributors and large beer producers in particular).
It does not benefit consumers in any way whatsoever to force small producers like brewpubs to be forced to go through distributors. All it will do is force brewpubs to raise prices for consumers, to the detriment of their sales and bottom lines. In every other state that I’ve been to that has brewpubs, they’re allowed to sell their products directly to consumers on-site at said brewpubs. HOWEVER, if they want to sell in liquor stores, then they generally have to go through the same 3-tiered distribution system that every other producer uses to sell to the general public.
Personally, I think this system (being able to sell direct only from their own location) is just fine. They (the brewpubs) have gone to the trouble of setting up shop in-state, employing locals, paying local taxes and permit fees, etc. I think they deserve a bit of a break for that. Of course, if AB-InBev decides to build a multi-million dollar brewery down the road, then they should also be able to sell directly to consumers-at that brewery only. Distribution to liquor stores would still be through independent distributors. Here again, it’s only fair.
Republicans constantly claim to be the party of business, but also to be looking out for the best interests of their constituents. In this bill, their true colors are revealed. They certainly do care about their constituents. It just turns out that their constituents are the large corporations willing to pay big dollars to support their re-election campaigns. Ideas of fairness, equity, and the value of small local businesses over large chains doesn’t enter into their thinking at all. And their platitudes about the “free” market are as empty as the growlers in Florida brewpubs soon will be if this bill becomes law.
People of Florida, call your state reps and senators. Let them know that SB 1714 is unfair to local businesses, bad for the Florida economy, and bad for innovation in the craft beer market. If the big breweries are afraid of the little guys beating them out, maybe they should actually engage in, oh, I don’t know, making a better product instead of attempting to rig the system.
Because after all, isn’t that what capitalism is supposed to be about? Support fairness, Florida. Reward investment in local economies by small, independent brewpubs. Kill SB 1714. Keep craft beer flowing in Florida!
P.S.- Someone go buy Sen. Latvala a beer. I don’t know much about his other political views, but he’s on the right side of this one in my book, and it seems like his heart is mostly in the right place.