The situation with Cigar City and the Tampa City Council has not changed since yesterday. The call has been heard across the country and people are still talking about it. But I want to urge caution.
In the past 24 hours I have heard claims of racism (the three members voting no were African-American, the three voting for were white), back-room shady dealings, and personal vendetta. I am not saying any of these are or are not true, but no one has shown me any evidence to support these claims yet. I would hate for one of these rumors to take hold only to find out it was baseless. It is not only unfair, but it hurts our cause.
Here is how I see it:
- As long as Cigar City has followed the laws and complied with everything required of them, there is no good reason to deny them their request.
- If there are issues with crime that can be attributed to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that. And that means we need evidence of that. Not hearsay and "what I am hearing on the street."
- If there are traffic or parking -related issues related to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that, too. And again, there needs to be data to support that claim.
- However, if there is something else at work here, it needs to be exposed. It needs to be called out. And it needs to be addressed in a public forum for all to see.
Another comment that was thrown around was "well, that's what happen when you have no beer culture..." Really? No beer culture in Tampa Bay? Then explain to me the success of places like Cigar City, Saint Somewhere, Dunedin Brewery, and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Tell me how places like the Oldsmar Tap House, Peg's Cantina, Willard's, the Pour House, and Mr. Dunderbak's survive? We may not be Portland or San Francisco or Asheville, but considering what the craft beer landscape in Florida looked like even three or four years ago, I would say we are doing pretty damn well.
No beer culture in Florida? Tell that to Redlight, Redlight in Orlando. Tell it to Swamp Head brewing in Gainseville. Tell all the locations of World of Beer they don't know what they are doing. Explain to the owners of the Independent and the Rex that there is no "beer culture" for them to cater to.
I could go on.
As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, the notion that Florida has no "beer culture" is like saying there is no "culinary culture" in England. The claim is antiquated and patently false. There was also the assertion that a "craft beer leader" - who wished to remain anonymous - in Florida agreed with the claim. I have been writing about craft beer for over a year, and have traveled quite a bit, met a lot of people from all over. Apparently I have not met our "leader".
Frankly the idea of a "craft beer leader" is laughable to me. Craft beer lovers - the writers, the homebrewers, the fans, and even just the drinkers - work together just fine without someone guiding us. Independent-minded, and just as passionate about our beer as anyone from Colorado, California, or Oregon.
So don't tell me there is no beer culture in Florida. And don't tell me our "leader" agrees with you. If he or she does, they are no leader at all.