October 28, 2014

Drink up! PLF challenges Florida’s ban on growlers

By Mark Miller Senior Attorney
mini-growler aka grenade
The Crafted Keg mini-growler

Growlers” are jugs of beer that patrons buy at craft beer establishments and then bring home to drink, and later carry to other taverns, breweries or restaurants, for refills with various varieties of custom brewed beer.

In the vast majority of America, a 64-ounce growler is the industry standard, and enthusiasts collect and re-fill their growlers throughout the country.  Florida’s growler prohibition (Fla. Statute Section 563.06(6)), however, prohibits this industry-standard growler.  The 64-ounce size?which just happens to be the same amount of beer that one will find in a six-pack?cannot be sold or filled by any business in the state. That the prohibited growler is the same size as the ubiquitous six-pack is not a coincidence. Far from it.

The “Big Beer” industry recognizes that the craft beer industry threatens its market share, and thus Big Beer has labored for years through its lobbyists to keep this irrational prohibition on the books in Florida.  The prohibition may be irrational from a logic standpoint, but it’s not from Big Beer’s standpoint: it forces an up-and-coming competitor to compete with one-hand tied behind its back.

The Crafted Keg, a popular new restaurant in downtown Stuart, Florida, aims to change all that.  Located in the historic Crary-Buchanan Building in downtown Stuart, The Crafted Keg was founded last year by Guy Piasecki and his three sons, Matthias, Alex, and Max, along with their partner Zachary Levine. They’re all beer enthusiasts, as well as creative entrepreneurs who recognized an exploding demand for craft beer products.

The men behind the Crafted Keg recognize that there is simply no defensible reason for Florida to single out the most popular craft-brew jug and ban it. There is no health or safety rationale for telling consumers that a half-gallon jug is off-limits, but two quarter-gallon jugs, or a gallon jug, are okay.  The ban isn’t in place to help the public, it’s to protect major beer interests by holding back the growth of craft brewers.

This explains why Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Crafted Keg against the State of Florida. Protecting a powerful industry’s market share doesn’t justify limiting the economic liberty of other businesses and consumers.   Under constitutional guarantees of due process and equal rights, regulations must serve the public interest, not the demands of the well-connected for protectionism.

Florida’s growler restrictions are limiting the growth of a promising industry. There are currently 50 craft breweries in the state, with another 28 set to open soon, according to Business Week.   A University of Florida study, commissioned by the Florida Brewers Guild, concluded that the state could eventually support 500 craft breweries.

With their anti-competition growler rules, Florida politicians aren’t just violating the constitutional rights of entrepreneurs, they’re also holding back a promising, popular industry. PLF’s lawsuit is designed to uphold the right of entrepreneurs throughout Florida to earn a living and serve the public.

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