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

Jessica Palombo

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. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP
Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.