PLF suit challenges Florida’s unconstitutional ban on half-gallon “growlers”
STUART, FL; October 28, 2014: Florida is violating the United States Constitution by arbitrarily banning restaurants, taverns, and breweries from selling or filling the most popular portable jug (or “growler”) for craft beers — the half-gallon (64-ounce) growler.
So argues a civil rights lawsuit filed in federal court today on behalf of the owners of The Crafted Keg, a popular downtown Stuart craft beer restaurant.
The lawsuit was filed by the national free-enterprise legal organization, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). PLF’s Florida headquarters is located in Palm Beach Gardens. PLF represents The Crafted Keg — as with all its clients — free of charge.
Florida “growler” ban doesn’t help the public –
only the market share of the traditional beer industry
“Growlers” are jugs of beer that patrons buy at craft beer establishments and then bring back, or carry to other taverns, breweries, or restaurants, for refills with various varieties of custom brewed beer. Florida’s growler restrictions (Fla. Statute Section 563.06(6)) allow this practice when it comes to gallon- or quart-sized beer jugs. But the most popular size — the half-gallon growler — is prohibited. It cannot be sold or filled by any business in the state.
“Florida imposes a double standard by allowing less popular growlers but banning the one people prefer,” said Mark Miller, managing attorney with PLF’s Atlantic Center office in Palm Beach Gardens. “Florida’s restrictions stand in stark contrast to 47 other states, where half-gallon growlers are perfectly legal and have become the industry standard.
“There is simply no defensible reason for Florida to single out the most popular craft-brew jug and ban it,” Miller continued. “What’s the health or safety rationale for telling consumers that a half-gallon jug is off-limits, but two quarter-gallon jugs are fine? Clearly, the ban isn’t to help the public, it’s to protect major beer interests by holding back the growth of craft brewers.
“This is why the growler ban can’t be allowed to stand,” Miller continued. “Protecting a powerful industry’s market share isn’t a legitimate reason for government restrictions or regulations. It doesn’t justify limiting the economic liberty of other businesses and consumers. Under constitutional guarantees of due process and equal rights, regulations must serve the public interest, not the demands of the well-connected for protectionism.”
The Crafted Keg is harmed by
Florida’s anti-competition growler restrictions
The Crafted Keg is a small-business success story, but its ability to serve customers is undermined by the state’s unconstitutional ban on popular half-gallon growlers.
Located in the historic Crary Buchanan Building in downtown Stuart, The Crafted Keg was founded last year by Guy Piasecki and his three sons, Matthias, Alex, and Max, along with their partner Zachary Levine. They’re all beer enthusiasts, as well as creative entrepreneurs who recognized an exploding demand for craft beer products.
Since opening in December, The Crafted Keg has grown steadily in popularity. Customers are offered 58 varieties of craft beer, cider, soda, and wine, along with a variety of meats, cheeses, and other bar foods that go with a good beer.
“The Crafted Keg is an inspired business venture, but its potential is held back by Florida’s unjustified ban on the most popular service it could offer,” said Miller. “The Crafted Keg specializes in filling growlers, but it can’t fill the growler that most people prefer.”
PLF’s lawsuit aims to help craft brewers serve the public — including tourists
The problems for Florida craft brew establishments like The Crafted Keg are particularly acute when it comes to serving tourists — people from any of the 47 states where businesses are free to sell and refill half-gallon growlers. Unfortunately, when out-of-state customers bring in their 64-ounce growlers to be filled, Florida businesses like The Crafted Keg are forced to say, “No.” While a Florida business can refill two 32-ounce growlers, or a 128-ounce growler, this isn’t a welcome alternative, because it’s more expensive and connoisseurs generally consider the 64-ounce growler as the most convenient size.
Removing roadblocks for a promising industry
Florida’s growler restrictions are limiting the growth of a promising industry. There are currently 50 craft breweries in the state, with another 28 set to open soon, according to Business Week. A University of Florida study, commissioned by the Florida Brewers Guild, concluded that the state could eventually support 500 craft breweries.
“With their anti-competition growler rules, Florida politicians aren’t just violating the constitutional rights of entrepreneurs, they’re also holding back a promising, popular industry,” said Miller. “Our lawsuit is designed to uphold the right of entrepreneurs throughout Florida to earn a living and serve the public. In the process, we’re trying to clear away regulatory roadblocks to job creation and economic growth.”
Statement from The Crafted Keg
“We want to give everyone great service, but the Florida growler restrictions are a barrier to that,” said co-owner Alex Piasecki. “People from out of state will come in and ask to have their half-gallon growlers filled, but we say that we can’t, and that they’d have to buy a new growler in a different size. This makes them feel we’re refusing service, but we’re just following the law. Some folks don’t understand, and it makes for a real customer relations problem.
“We’re very grateful that Pacific Legal Foundation is helping us fight this restriction that makes no sense from any reasonable point of view.”
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Pierce Division, the case is The Crafted Keg v. Lawson, et. al. More information, including the complaint and a litigation backgrounder, is available at: www.pacificlegal.org.
About Pacific Legal Foundation and its Atlantic Center in Florida
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation is a nonprofit public interest watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and free enterprise, in courts across the country. PLF’s Atlantic Center is located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. PLF represents all clients free of charge.