Florida Looks to Ease Restrictions on Craft Distilleries

In recent years, craft distilleries across the country have emerged in a trend similar to the thriving craft beer market. However, one key difference is that distilleries, regardless of size, are often heavily regulated by state and federal authorities compared to their brewery counterparts. In an effort to modernize post-prohibition era rules that are inhibiting a growing national trend, many states are taking action to ease regulatory burdens on the craft liquor industry.

Florida appears to be the most recent example of this movement with the introduction of Florida Senate Bill 166. Critics of the current Florida law say it is antiquated, especially in regards to its three-tier system and the amount of alcohol a distillery may manufacture to qualify as a “craft distillery”. SB 166, which recently passed the state’s Senate Regulated Industries Committee, seeks to make several changes, including expanding the definition of “craft distillery” and significantly reducing existing retail limits.

Current Florida law states that a craft distillery may only produce 75,000 gallons of product per year. SB 166 would increase the production amount to 250,000 gallons per year. This is a very significant change, as qualifying as a “craft distillery” has substantial regulatory advantages already in place, such as looser retail restrictions compared to distilleries generally.

Another major issue craft distilleries have encountered is the consumer purchase limit. The current law states that a consumer may only purchase “[t]wo individual containers of each branded product; Three individual containers of a single branded product and up to one individual container of a second branded product; or Four individual containers of a single branded product.” This rule is tracked through a state-wide system via driver’s license numbers. SB 166 removes the consumer purchase limit altogether.

An additional key change concerns where craft distilled spirits can be sold. The law currently states that the craft product may only be sold “at its souvenir gift shop. . . on its property contiguous to its licensed distillery.” SB 166 would allow for product to be sold “at one other approved sales room located in the same county as the distillery’s production building which shall be an extension of the craft distillery’s licensed premises.”

Supporters of SB 166 believe that these changes will bring a much-needed boost to the consumer aspect of Florida craft distilleries. As states across the nation continue easing restrictions on small craft distilleries to aid an already thriving industry, SB 166 appears to be keeping solidly with that trend. To read the full text of SB 166, click here.

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