Florida malt beverage suppliers and local bar owners are thrilled over the passage of House Bill 961, which creates an exception to Florida’s “tied house evil” prohibitions and amends Florida Statute 561.42 by allowing distributors to provide, and vendors, or retailers, to accept, branded glassware, free of charge. In general, Florida’s tied house statutes prohibit manufacturers, distributors, and importers from giving, and retailers from accepting, gifts, money, and other things of value in order to avoid the separate tiers from having a financial interest or “tie” to one another. The tied house statutes carve out certain exceptions, such as allowing suppliers to give neon or electric signs, window paintings, posters, placards, and other advertising material to vendors for use inside of their retail establishment. House Bill 961 adds to these exceptions by allowing malt beverage suppliers to provide their distributors with branded glassware that the distributors may, in turn, give to vendors licensed to sell malt beverages for on premise consumption, i.e., bars and restaurants. Each piece of glassware given to a bar or restaurant must bear supplier branding and distributors are limited to giving ten cases of glassware (twenty four pieces of glass per case, or two hundred and forty glasses) per retailer, per year. Vendors are prohibited from selling the glassware or returning it to a distributor for cash, credit, or a replacement. Suppliers, distributors, and retailers must maintain detailed records of the transactions for three years, even if no money is exchanged, such as keeping zero cost receipts. The…

This week, Florida’s Senate Regulated Industries Committee approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Artiles that would change the existing state laws currently restricting beer wholesalers from giving away free glassware to on-premise retailers such as bars, restaurants and other establishments that sell beer. The bill will set limits on the amount of glassware that may be given to five cases of 24 glasses per brand per year. Should a company have multiple brands, such as the larger national brewers, they can potentially give away thousands of glasses annually.     Joshua Aubuchon, a lobbyist for the Florida Brewers Guild, spoke with CBS Miami and said the small craft breweries that his organization represents cannot compete with that cost. Even if a brewer offered five cases to each bar, at a cost of $1 per glass, it could add up to $42,000, assuming the brewery had 350 customers. “We simply can’t afford it,”said Aubuchon. The bill moves on next to the Commerce and Tourism Committee and we will provide updates as they become available.   By Oren Cytrynbaum

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