Friday, December 23, 2016

Florida Senate Bill Gives Craft Distilleries Several Needed Breaks

Senator Greg Steube
     Senate Bill 166 filed by Senator Greg Steube of Sarasota, if passed will drastically curtail the restrictions on the state's craft distilleries.   SB 166, which would allow distilleries the freedom to sell more of their own product on-site and reduce the license fee for craft distilleries by 75 percent.   A craft distillery will be defined as one that is a licensed distillery that produces 250,000 or fewer gallons of distilled spirits on its premises in a year.  

     Such a business would pay just $1,000 a year for a license under the new bill, while those "engaged in the business of rectifying and blending spirit liquors and nothing else will continue to pay $4,000 license fee.   More importantly, the bill would remove restrictions on how much distilleries can sell directly to customers.  Currently the law only allows customers may purchase two bottles of each expression per year.

     St. Augustine Distillery co-founder and CEO Philip McDaniel, said he likes what he sees in the language.   "Passage of the 2013 law that first allowed Florida craft distilleries to sell their product on site in face-to-face transactions, has already grown the industry by a five- fold factor," McDaniel said. "It has helped keep many new businesses afloat."  McDaniel said he simply wants the same ability that wineries and micro breweries have to sell directly to customers.   The spirit businesses will still require the services of a distributor to sell liquor at retail outlets.  

     There has not been any other action on the bill, which was filed Tuesday. But St. Johns County Sen. Travis Hutson said he's seen the bill and likes what he sees.  Hutson said, "I am a strong proponent for parity in the industry, and the current language as I've seen it helps even the playing field to allow these local, small businesses to survive or fail on their own merit without government picking winners and losers.”