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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Legislation that would allow distributors to give away free branded beer glasses and a measure that would lift a bottle limit on gin, vodka and other distilled liquors sold at Florida craft distilleries cleared a Senate committee on Monday.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 for a bill (SB 1040) by Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, that would let beer distributors give away up to five cases of 24 branded glasses each year for each beer brand to bars, restaurants and other retailers. The legislation has the support of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer manufacturer, and groups such as the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Artiles said if the bill passes, Florida would join 20 other states that allow manufacturers and distributors to provide free glassware with beer brand names to bars and restaurants. He said smaller craft breweries, which largely oppose the bill, would not have to participate in the giveaway.

“This is a fair playing field, across the board, from craft breweries to Anheuser-Busch to MillerCoors,” Artiles said. “This has been a success in other states.”

But Josh Aubuchon, representing the Florida Brewers Guild, said smaller craft brewers “simply can’t afford this arms race,” estimating it could cost a brewer with 350 retail customers as much as $210,000 a year to provide the maximum amount of free glasses allowed under the bill.

“The folks who are really in favor of this are the folks with the biggest pockets who can afford it and the folks who are getting free stuff,” Aubuchon said. “Quite frankly, it really cuts out the smallest of us to participate.”

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, cast the lone no vote.

Artiles’ bill is more expansive than a measure (HB 853) pending in the House Commerce Committee. That bill would limit the glass giveaway to three cases for three brands per year. The bill also would prohibit using the free glassware as “an inducement” to influence retailers to buy certain beers.

In another 6-1 vote, the Commerce and Tourism Committee backed a measure (SB 166) by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, that would expand the ability of Florida craft distilleries to sell vodka, rum and other distilled liquors.

It would allow unlimited sales of distilled liquor at the distilleries, as opposed to a two-bottle per brand, per person limit now imposed.

Steube said the legislation would bring the distilleries “in line” with craft breweries and wineries that have unlimited onsite sales, arguing the government should not set sales limits on manufactured products.

“You can go to Walmart and buy as many shotguns as you want. You can go to a winery and buy as many bottles as you want,” Steube said. “I just think that the government telling a business how many pieces of their product they can sell at their location is archaic.”

Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, opposed the bill.

A similar House bill (HB 141), which would set a six-bottle per brand limit for craft distillery sales, is pending in the House Commerce Committee.

The Senate committee on Monday also approved a bill (SB 388) from Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, that would let beer manufacturers participate in “cooperative advertising” programs with major Florida theme parks.

The measure would allow the manufacturers to advertise at the parks and well as participate in media campaigns related to events they are sponsoring at the parks.

The bill passed unanimously and it is similar to a measure (HB 423) pending in the House Commerce Committee.

The News Service of Florida’s Lloyd Dunkelberger contributed to this report.

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