Bills for Big Business Hurt Craft Brewers

by | Apr 24, 2017

In a session dominated by rhetoric about not picking winners and losers, at least two bills making their way through the process do just that.

SB 388 by Senator Travis Hutson and HB 423 by Rep. Mike LaRosa, commonly referred to as the theme park bills, create a special exception for the states largest theme parks that will allow them to seek sponsorships or cooperative advertising deals with malt beverage brewers like Anheuser Busch, MillerCoors and others.

It’s a classic case of “the rich getting richer.”

Consider the fact that allowing theme parks to “advertise” – in the form of sponsorships from brewers – where the theme parks will have all the leverage. Small craft brewers, who currently rely on theme parks for a large volume of their business, will now be faced with take-it-or-leave it deals. With limited marketing budgets, smaller vendors are faced with a stark choice: agree to the demands of theme parks for sponsorship deals, or watch the theme parks cut deals and buy product from bigger brewers with larger marketing and sponsorship budgets.

That’s not cooperative advertising, it’s coercive. Ultimately, all brewers are losers under this bill, because they become a new profit center for the theme parks. But the small craft brewers are the real losers, as they won’t have the resources to play at the level of bigger companies like Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors.

But alcohol bills that benefit the largest players in the market don’t stop there. HB 853 by Representative Tom Goodson and SB 1040 by (former) Senator Frank Artiles, commonly referred to as the glassware bills, will create an exception to the prohibition against brewers providing free glassware to vendors. The prohibition has been in place for decades in order to prevent big brewers from buying accounts or subsidizing vendors’operating costs and squeezing smaller brewers out of the market.

Not surprisingly, the company pushing this bill is…drumroll please…Anheuser Busch, the largest brewer in the world, with the deepest pockets to fund free glassware for vendors all across the state – as long as they serve Anheuser Busch products. The bill is opposed by practically everyone else in the beer industry, and again the biggest losers, due to their inability to financially compete, are Florida’s own craft brewers.

With all the talk this year about not picking winners and losers and eliminating corporate welfare, this kind of policy, designed to benefit specific, large companies, flies in the face of everything these lawmakers campaigned on.

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