Florida may ease bottle law

Senate votes for measure to lift size restrictions

Apr 23, 2001 - The Florida Senate has passed a measure -- by a resounding 37-2 vote -- that would lift size restrictions on beer bottles and cans. The bill goes to the House, where a similar bill awaits floor action.


Existing Florida law limits beer and other malt beverage containers to 8, 12, 16 or 32 ounces. It does not apply to containers over 32 ounces. The law keeps many imports and American microbrewed beers out of the state because they are sold only in containers, often metric, of other sizes.

Rep. Tom Lee first introduced legislation in 1999 to change the law, which was enacted in 1965. The Florida Beer Wholesalers Association mounted a quick and powerful campaign that year to make sure the measure went nowhere. They argued that the existing law is for "consumer protection," and that consuemrs might be confused by new sizes and drink too much. They said prices could go up because they would need more trucks and stores would have to add to shelf space.

Lee has continued to press for the law change not only because it would increase consumer choice. In researching the 30-year-old law Lee said he learned, among other things, that it had been enacted to benefit one brewer (Anheuser-Busch) at the expense of a rival (Miller). "Even if it's a trivial matter in the overall scheme of things," Lee said. "The more you get into it, the more incensed you get that there's stuff like this in the statutes."

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