Big Beer To Florida: Let's Decide Whether Craft Brewers Should Have Tasting Rooms

Jan 14, 2015

Intuition Ale Works is one of the Jacksonville breweries that make beer and sell it in their taprooms on site. Craft brewers are afraid changes to licensing rules could threaten that business model.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

Florida’s craft beer brewers are feeling threatened after a court filing by the Florida Retail Federation. The lobbying association, which represents large-scale beverage makers and distributors, is asking for clarification about which beer brewers are allowed to sell their product on site. 

Retail federation lawyer Samantha Padgett says, “If you get everybody participating in the rule process, you get all the perspectives, all the different viewpoints, aspirationally what will result is a good rule that will be understandable for all licensees and all potential licensees."

Craft beer brewers operate tasting rooms using a "tourism exemption" to Florida law. Under Florida’s three-tiered system, a business can either make, distribute or sell beer. The tourism exemption was written in originally to allow the Busch Gardens theme park to sell its brew. Padgett says a public hearing would settle what qualifies as tourism. 

But Byron Burroughs, co-founder of Tallahassee’s Proof brewing company, views the federation's court filing as more nefarious. 

"They’re claiming that it is invalid and either needs to be made into a rule or—in their hopes—completely thrown out, saying that the tasting room for all craft breweries is therefore illegal," Burroughs says. 

If the judge calls for rulemaking in the case, the public will be notified of hearings where they can weigh in.