Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Dear Florida Lawmaker,

If you’ve followed the craft brewing crescendo of late, you know that Craft Beer is exploding in almost every state of the union – including Alaska and Hawaii!

Craft Beer is an affluent “sport” where a pint of the finest brew starts at $5. and a Nielsen study quotes that close to 60% of craft beer drinkers earn over $75K a year.  It’s an exploding industry stateside and internationally – and we, Florida craft beer consumers (we’re all of voting age!) are fortunate.  Within an hours drive of almost anywhere in the state is a local craft brewer ready and willing to serve us brews that satisfy even the most finicky  palate!

BUT, on the brewery side, it’s certainly not a fast road to riches – consider the start-up costs (upwards of $400K according to posts on ProBrewer.com), licensing, and, if you have your way, a stranglehold of regulations.

For brewers, it’s a labor of passion and love, and fortunately it’s becoming a community of good people with good intentions and the American dream of hard work leading to good profits – EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO YOU, OUR FLORIDA LAWMAKERS.

Despite the potential tax revenues, tourism dollars, jobs, and general well-being that comes from the beer industry, of which craft brewing is a part, you’ve been crafting backroom legislation intended to stifle the growth of the craft brewing industry and working to increase regulations to benefit the big beer distributors who line some of your pockets with campaign contributions.  Lewis Bear (an Anheuser Busch distributor) is a great long-term friend of our Senate President, who is quoted as saying he will support anything that Lewis Bear puts before him.

Florida could be a craft beer tourist destination bringing millions (if not billions!) of tax and tourist revenue to our state!

Please!  Wake up and smell the coffee (there is actually a Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout on tap at Rapp Brewing in Largo!) Why would some of you hasten back to prohibition and claim that laws from 80+ years ago still are equally valid today?  Fear-mongering rhetoric from a bygone era trumped talk about growth this season as you talked about regulations ranging from growler size to grocers holding beer tastings (wine is okay?!)   Wine certainly has far more freedom (have you even tasted the incredible fresh from Florida beers?  No one talks about craft beer as being anything close to water here!)

By the end of the year, our tropical landscape will be dotted with over 100 microbreweries from Jacksonville to Key West, (see my  post about Gerard Walen’s new book FLORIDA BREWERIES) – each boasting a story of long hours, passionate brewers, and loyal supporters – yet you appear to be intent on killing the industry before it really gets off the ground.  Consider that Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, NY, North Carolina and other states are craft beer friendly (and their economies are thriving even with cold weather and sagging tourism!)

What Happened to Jobs, Revenue, Economic Growth and Small Business Incentives being important?  Please see what competing states are proposing that PROMOTE CRAFT BREWING:

In Michigan:

SCarolinahttp://mibiz.com/news/mibooze/item/21465-changes-to-state-law-allow-small-microbreweries-to-bypass-wholesalers-sell-directly-to-retailers

In South Carolina:

SCarolina

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20140417/ARTICLES/140419696?tc=ar

Honorable Representative or Senator, I urge you as a Floridian and as our elected official, PLEASE rule in favor of small business and support our local craft brewing industry – our future (and the future of our children) depends on you.  Please leave prohibition behind and do not allow Florida to be fodder for late night comedy routines “Are we really stuck in Prohibition?  Oh right, only in Florida!”

Respectfully,

Carol Dekkers, Florida Voter

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Comments on: "Dear Florida Lawmaker – Are we really stuck in Prohibition? Seriously “only in FLORIDA” ?" (9)

  1. Carol,
    This is very well researched and written. Especially with regard to the links about other state legislatures that are supporting jobs and growth. I am with you, and Florida craft beer 100%! Keep up the good work.

    • Troy, thanks for taking the time to comment. The Florida Brewers Guild told me yesterday that there are bright things on the horizon and that the governor is scheduling visits to show his support for craft brewing this summer. Let’s hope his words (and actions) come true – and maybe our government can focus next season on things like jobs, growth, and ENTICING more craft brewers to set up shop in the Sunshine State. 🙂

  2. Hi Carol…I am going to disagree with Troy and say this is a very one sided letter that does not even try to explain why some of the proposed legislation is written the way it is. Do I think many things in the legislation are skewed, yes, but not just because the so called evil wholesalers are trying to keep craft brewers down. A few key points to consider. 1. Beer is an alcoholic beverage and is considered a controlled substance. Laws were put in place to help control abuses of these beverages from production, to sale to consumption. Why do the craft brewers think they should be exempt from these laws. They are not making soft drinks, they are making something that when consumed in an irresponsible manner ruins families, lives, and causes death. Yes lots of painful record keeping and regulation is necessary, these laws were in place before the local craft breweries opened. 2. Alcoholic beverage sales are a big contributor to the taxes (in the billions of dollars) collected in Florida, a state with no income tax. The evil distributors are the states tax collector and having the 3 tier system helps maintain a system of checks and balances that ensures the state gets its full due of alcoholic beverage revenue. So while it may seem silly to have to pay a wholesaler the profit for beer that never leaves the brewery it actually does 2 things: creates a record of product sold and tax revenue to be collected and keeps the brewery from having an unfair price advantage over other retailers that they want their product sold to. 3. The main cause of this legislation being written is because the brewers want to effect a size change for retail sale in Florida law for Growlers. Again the law already existed but it needs to be changed to appease the newcomers into the business. This 64oz size exception is written into the legislation. To sum up, and I am an outsider looking in, I do not represent any Florida craft breweries, I am also not opposed to 64oz growler being legal, it is the common size. Some legislation was introduced to help bring into proper control for what is a fast growing and yes job producing industry. Unfortunately instead of the local brewers reaching out to the evil wholesalers that supposedly crafted the whole legislation to come to some common ground agreement a deluge of one sided information was put out there. The media loved it! David vs. Goliath, and they did not have to fully research the subject since they were just reporting from the source providing their side of the story.

    • Mr. Hof, I would hardly call you an “outsider looking in” when your public LinkedIn profile says you are Beer Marketing Manager at Republic National Distributing Company in Daytona Beach. If you no longer hold that position or if you are not that “Colin Hof,” I apologize, but this type of disingenuous posturing by the distributors, their lobbyists and their politicians leads me to believe that it’s a matter of self-interest on their part, not concern for the electorate, small business or the state’s economy.

    • Colin,

      Thank you for taking the time to hand craft your response and your disagreement to my blog post. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and yours, while lengthy, is more than a bit confusing to me:

      1. You mention that you are an “outsider” to the Florida craft brewing industry but your public linked in profile describes you as the Beer Marketing Manager for Republic National Distributing, the 2nd largest national alcohol distributor in the USA, (Facebook also implies the same.) https://www.linkedin.com/pub/colin-hof/9/170/ab6

      As an outsider, some of your words are verbatim to other wholesaler texts I’ve read elsewhere, which sounds more like those of an “insider.”

      2. I’m also a bit confused at your choice of words to describe the distributing industry itself as (these are from your comments): “so called evil wholesalers” and “The evil distributors are the states tax collector and having the 3 tier system…”

      It sounds like the pot calling the kettle black so to speak – actually, no, you’re calling yourself out. I don’t get that.

      3. As a National Distributor (17+ states according to the website), I would have thought you’d also be up on how Distributors in other states are SUPPORTING craft brewers by relaxing regulations from the Prohibition era AND are increasing mutual profits. Michigan is one such state – and the distributors I have contacts with there are also confused by your comments.

      4. As a distributor of alcohol (some with much, much higher alcohol content than craft beer), I wonder why you would not be championing family causes instead of earning profits on said products. I’m confused why you would select craft beer as a culprit in the alcohol-infused demise of our nation. Your words: “They are not making soft drinks, they are making something that when consumed in an irresponsible manner ruins families, lives, and causes death.”

      Why would you participate in distributing such malicious products in grocery stores (where there are young children present) — especially hard liquor products that more quickly lead to intoxication and all of the related ruination consequences? The Prohibition style rhetoric is surprising from a distributor such as yourself.

      Regardless of my confusion, thank you for taking the time to read the blog and comment, it’s dialogue that moves us forward in life.

      Carol

    • Interesting Colin. But not valid. Especially the bleeding heart stuff. Then why not go back to prohibition for everyone, bars, restaurants and retail? That’s just nonsense.

      Also, the breweries do have to keep records, pay taxes, upkeep permits and do more than the distributors. In fact, the big distributors like you work for probably even get tax breaks that the breweries do not, and certainly as we have seen get political favor.

      Lastly, I do not believe that the breweries would undercut the distributors with on site sales. Look at CCB right now! They charge full MSRP on their packaged goods sold at the brewery and brewpub. Again your claims are nonsense. Really, it only further proves our point that the distributors are upset that the extra profit would go to the breweries themselves to offset overhead, or provide convenience to their own customers. I.E. the so called “Come to Rest” provision.

      The only point I might concede would be the need to honor the 3 tier system for guest taps or tap takeovers, where the brewery tasting room in question would have to buy those kegs from a distributor to be able to serve them. Collaboration brews might be a slightly different story depending on where the brew is originating from.

  3. Leigh Middlemass said:

    Hogwash! That is bunk Colin! “control abuses of these beverages” The feds already track records of each brewery, they want accurate books. “they are making something that when consumed in an irresponsible manner” What they are doing is being responsible in their process of a quality craft product, what people, a.k.a. Americans do with this product irresponsibly is up to each person that decides to abuse and be irresponsible. By taxing and adding unnecessary bureaucracy it doesn’t stop people from acting irresponsibly. Your over inflated reasons are like cheese cloth with holes in it. They don’t hold water or a valid point for more bureaucracy and distributor interference and taxation without representation. “The evil distributors are the states tax collector” well I am glad you admit they are evil, but weather a drink has alcohol or not the people of Florida already pay sales tax on purchases. (Excerpt from Florida Dept of Rev: Florida’s sales and use tax rate is 6%. Discretionary sales surtax (also called county tax) is imposed by many Florida counties and applies to most transactions subject to sales tax. The Department of Revenue collects both taxes and distributes the surtax back to the counties.) Sounds like a system that works, and its been in place for awhile in Florida. All debating this point aside, your point about craft beverages not being taxed enough is ludicrous! “Some legislation was introduced to help bring into proper control for what is a fast growing and yes job producing industry.” Did you say “”SOME”” legislation? I guess you could say Nazi Germany invaded some of Europe and some people were affected by it too. Or Communist Russia took over “”SOME”” of Europe and Asia, probably all in an effort to “maintain a system of checks and balances” as you stated. You sir, and this is my first amendment rights of Freedom of Speech, you are a sheep following wolves, but worst of all you are waving a flag for other sheep to follow you and close their eyes to the fact that they are actually following wolves. I honestly hope you are not an actual part of the Florida Beer Industry in any way, shape, or form. That would be scary.

    • jerbear50 said:

      Wow. Only seven comments deep and Godwin’s Law is already in play?

  4. Colin is flatly stating that the 3 tier system is Floridas tax collector for beer, without which the state would loose valuable tax revenue and have no clear record of beer sales… in effect, calling all craft breweries liars and tax evaders.
    As for the whole argument of “Beer is a controlled substance, and if we let the craft brewers cut out the middle man, it will allow them to sell it so cheaply it will destroy families and lives…” Oh Please… give me a break. Look at cigarettes… history has clearly shown if folks want it, no matter how much tax and price hiking you do, they will buy it. Therefore, the inverse must also be true… giving the craft brewer the break will not encourage more consumption… those who want are going to buy anyway.

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