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Senate passes growler, tap room bill

The Florida Senate was ready to vote on a bill allowing craft breweries to fill and sell half-gallon beer growlers — then Sen. Jack Latvala filed a rare amendment on the floor, changing the language.

The bill (SB 186) still passed, by a unanimous vote.

Last-minute changes bring the bill closer in alignment with the House version, said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican.

“We’ve done it this way to kind of facilitate our negotiations on the other side of the hall,” he said on the floor Tuesday. “We’ve come up with some language that — I’m not going to represent that the House has agreed to it — I’m going to represent that I think it’s pretty close to final language.”

New language allows growlers to be sold at breweries, the issue that started a years-long legislative battle over craft beer.

But it also allows craft breweries to open tasting rooms and have up to eight (down from nine in the earlier language) retail licenses for selling their beer, ending the need to use an exemption in law meant for tourism sites.

The legislation, if passed by the House and signed by Gov. Rick Scott would give more freedom to craft brewers, who see some of these reforms as opportunities for growth. Opposing groups, particularly beer wholesalers and distributors, have stood firmly against growlers for years. This session, though, they’ve come out in support of legalizing the containers.