April 30, 2015

Florida Legislature approves growler law fix

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney

In the last two weeks, the Florida State Senate and House of Representatives both unanimously approved a bill to legalize the 64-ounce growler.  The Legislature made this move after years of failing to fix the law; that ongoing failure hurt the small businesses that make up the exploding craft beer industry. The Legislature finally took action after Pacific Legal Foundation and a growler bar called The Crafted Keg filed a lawsuit against the State and asked a federal judge to declare the law banning the growler unconstitutional.

Now, the bill heads to the Governor’s desk for signature; Governor Scott has previously suggested he supported legalizing the growler; hopes are high that he intends to do the right thing and sign the bill.

The Stuart News published a great story by Zaimarie De Guzman about the case today.  Here’s a snippet:

Downtown Stuart’s The Crafted Keg deserves a tip of the hat from Florida beer enthusiasts.

Or a clink of the growlers.

After three failed attempts by the state Legislature and $800,000 spent by major beer distributors on lobbyists, the Florida House last week voted unanimously — before lurching to an early stop of the session Tuesday — to legalize the 64-ounce, refillable beer jugs that are a standard size in the industry and legal in every state except Florida.

***

The Crafted Keg played a role in making it happen.

Late last year, the downtown Stuart pub started a conversation with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit that had been seeking a brewery to take on a lawsuit against the state regarding the growler issue. Attorney Mark Miller of the law firm said Florida is the only state to outlaw the 64-ounce growlers, though some states have restrictions.

The local bar’s owner, Matthias Piasecki, was quick to hop on the opportunity to become the plaintiff in the case, claiming government overreach.

Piasecki’s beer business, like many others, has been affected by the Prohibition-era ban. Tourists often visit the pub with their 64-ouncers, only to hear the confusing news that Florida bars can fill quart and gallon growlers, but not the convenient and most popular six-pack equivalent in between.

“We had been hearing for years that the law was going to change, but I think the (Legislature) was trying to get away with not having to address it,” Piasecki said. “There needed to be more light shed on this. And I thought, what do we have to lose?”

When the lawsuit became public, it garnered national attention. CBS This Morning, for one, aired a segment featuring the local bar and its growler saga.

***

“I think the suit forced the state to look at the law and realize it was indefensible,” Miller said.

You can read the article at this link.

We haven’t declared victory yet; that will take place when the Governor signs the bill and officially frees the growler.  Who knows? To celebrate we may even have to try this “craft beer” and find out what all the fuss is about.

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