January 15, 2015

Court denies State's motion to dismiss beer growler suit

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

IMG_2157We are happy to report that the Court has denied the State of Florida’s motion to dismiss Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit seeking to throw out  the State’s ban on beer growlers. You can read the Court’s well-considered and thoughtful ruling at this link; the ruling sets out the nature of the case quite well and why it would be wrong to dismiss the case. We discuss the ruling in more detail after the jump.

The Court’s order begins:

Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of a Florida statute that places certain restrictions on the sale of beer. Under section 563.06, Florida Statutes, the sale of two 32 ounce containers of beer is permissible. The sale of a 128 ounce container is also permissible. Id. The sale of a 64 ounce container of beer, however, is not only prohibited, but is also a second degree misdemeanor. Id. Plaintiff argues that the statute has no rational relationship to a governmental interest on a number of grounds, although the ground most developed in Plaintiff’s Motion is the disparity of treatment between, for example, two 32 ounce containers of beer and one 64 ounce container.

After setting out the background of the case, the Court explains that the State has to show that the law has a rational basis in order to defend it, and then summarizes why PLF and our client, The Crafted Keg, believe there is no rational basis for the growler ban:

To establish that the statute at issue has no rational justification, Plaintiff has
pled, inter alia, the following:

•The law is so illogical that Plaintiff’s patrons cannot understand it. DE 1 ¶ 17.

• That consumers who intend to drink and drive simply choose to consume beer in different size containers, and thereby circumvent any attempt by the Florida legislature (through the statute) to provide for public safety. See id. at ¶ 33.

• That the size and shape of a container of beer has no relationship to a consumer’s consumption of alcohol because different packaging alternatives exist for a consumer to consume any amount of alcohol they choose. See id. at ¶ 34.

Plaintiff also offers legal argument to establish that the law has no rational justification.

For example, Plaintiff argues that the law has no rational relationship to alcohol consumption when there is no comparable ban on the size of containers of wine or hard liquor.

The Court then summarizes the State’s justifications for the law, highlighting what Florida attorney Ross Appel called a hilarious argument proffered by the State:

 Defendants argue [in defense of the ban]:

(i) that a consumer who consumes a 64 ounce container of beer could tell a police officer they only had “one beer”; and

(ii) that a consumer is “significantly more likely” to attempt to consume beer in a container greater than 32 ounces but less than 128 ounces.

In its opposition to the State’s motion to dismiss, PLF had highlighted the State’s “one beer” justification, noting that at a minimum this purported justification invited an evidentiary investigation so as to determine if a Florida officer would, in fact, be fooled by a drunk driver who tells an officer that he drank “one beer” when he actually drank a half-gallon of beer via growler.

The Court effectively agrees, explaining that “Plaintiff’s Complaint is sufficiently well pled to allow Plaintiff the opportunity to obtain evidence through discovery.”

We look forward to obtaining that evidence, and proving that the State of Florida’s ban on growlers is an irrational, unconstitutional law.

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