Senates backs bill on beer sponsorship at theme parks


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Beer companies would be allowed to sponsor events and participate in other "cooperative" advertising with major Florida theme parks under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation (SB 388) would let beer manufacturers participate in up to 25 events or promotions each year at theme parks that cover at least 25 acres and attract at least 1 million visitors a year, which would include Universal Studios, Disney World, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

The bill, which was approved in a 36-1 vote, would also remove a limit on wine bottle sizes, allowing the sales of bottles such as the Nebuchadnezzar, which holds 20 standard wine bottles. It also would make it easier for consumers to take open wine bottles from restaurants, eliminating a provision that the wine must be purchased in conjunction with a "full course" meal.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, is opposed by craft brewers, most distributors and MillerCoors, which have argued that Anheuser-Busch InBev, the largest beer manufacturer, would have an unfair advantage in sponsoring theme-park events.

A similar House bill (HB 423) is pending in the House Commerce Committee.

A bill (HB 853) that would let beer distributors provide free glassware to bars and restaurants cleared the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Rockledge, would let bars and restaurants receive up to three cases of 24 glasses advertising up to three brands from each manufacturer every year.

A related bill (SB 1040) is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. But its passage has been cast into doubt as the sponsor, Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is embroiled in a controversy over using racial epithets and vulgar words to criticize other senators.

Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, implied that Artiles' actions could have an impact on his legislation. "Every senator is judged by her or his conduct in the chamber and how they treat other senators," Negron said. "And I think that legislation that is proposed or amendments that are proposed by any senator, they have the senator's name on them and they carry with it the reputation of that individual senator."