Legislation would require craft brewers to sell growlers through a distributer

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Posted: Monday, April 28, 2014 5:40 pm

SARASOTA, Fla. -- With a lot of unfinished business in the state legislature this week, both the House and Senate focus on bills that will greatly affect the Suncoast. One Senate bill hits close to home, impacting local craft brewery businesses and their consumers.

Senate Bill 1714 could mark up the costs for local craft breweries, and Monday, in the Senate, more amendments are being brought before the floor -- raising more concerns for two new Suncoast businesses.

In hopes of bringing something new to the market, Sarasota native Mike Basaha opened Big Top Brewing Company just 5 months ago, brewing their beer on site. "When we first got started with this, we wanted to open a brewery that Sarasota could be proud of."

And in Bradenton, Motorworks Brewing opened their doors in January, brewing their craft beers on site as well.

But now both breweries say new legislation could hinder their up and coming businesses. "All we were asking for in this situation was to have the industry standard 64-ounce growler," says Barry Elwonger at Motorworks.

Senate Bill 1714 does allow the sale of 64-ounce growlers, but stricter limitations on distribution practices come along with that same legislation -- a "three-tiered" regulatory system requiring beer-makers to sell their bottled or canned products through distributors.

"Essentially, for a beer that would never leave our facility, you know, when it was in bottles or kegs, and what not…and sold directly to the public through here, we would have to pay a distributor for them to never have put any effort into it."

They say the primary impact would be on-site sales. "If the numbers aren't there and we can't sustain at the current numbers, we're going to have to find a way to do that. And unfortunately that's typically going to come down to increasing the cost on the cans and passing it onto the consumers."

Local brewery owners must reconsider how they will move forward with hiring as well.

"There's no question it's going to hinder the economy. We're going to have to think closer on whether we hire, how soon we hire, how much production we put out."

Locals who are now enjoying the benefits of local breweries say they are concerned about price increase. "I will probably continue to support it, but it would probably decrease the times that I do buy it,” says Sarasota resident Charlie Wilson.

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