(FORT MYERS, Fla.) - Could new legislation be a buzzkill for craft beer?
Florida lawmakers say it will be a boon for business, but some microbrewers worry the measure will do the exact opposite.
House Bill 1329 would allow brewers to sell their beer in 32 and 64 oz. growlers. The bill would also allow for free tastings at breweries.
Some southwest Florida brewers told WINK News that the bill could keep their business from growing.
Jennifer Gratz and her husband just celebrated one year in business, at the helm of the Fort Myers Brewing Company.
Gratz says her business has expanded, and she has no plans to slow down.
"Right now, we're doing about 500 barrels of beer here a year. We plan to expand to about 3,000 barrels this year," Gratz said.
The expansion might require a new location, but because of HB 1329, Gratz worries that a move might cost her the tasting room.
"Our tasting room is jam-packed on days that we're open," Gratz said. "Our tasting room is where we test recipes... If we had to shut down the tasting room -- we have five employees right now -- we would lose three immediately."
The bill would allow Gratz to keep her vendor's license unless she moves, in which case, she would have to get a new license. Gratz is concerned that won't be an easy process.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R), who serves part of Lee County, filed the legislation.
"If they're relocating, it's because they need to manufacture more beer than they can at their present location, Rodrigues said in response to Gratz's concern. "If they've gotten to that point than they're a true manufacturer, which is where the revenue from their business should be derived."
Rodrigues said his bill is designed to protect the three-tier system that has regulated alcohol sales since prohibition ended.
He said he hopes the three tiers; manufacturing, wholesale and retail; will remain separate and that the bill will generate interest in local breweries.