Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Florida Senate bill would give craft distilleries more freedom (SAR)


The lobbyist for this industry is GrayRobinson Managing Shareholder JASON UNGER, appointed by two Governors to chair the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.
To his credit, JASON UNGER personally vetted Fifth Circuit State's Attorney BRADLEY KING and FSCJNC did not forward his name to Governor Scott.
KING covered up the Michelle O'Connell case.

Posted December 16, 2016 05:29 am - Updated December 16, 2016 06:12 am
Florida Senate bill would give craft distilleries more freedom

A bill filed by a senator from Sarasota would drastically curtail the restrictions on the state’s craft distilleries, including the St. Augustine Distillery on Riberia Street.

Republican state Sen. Greg Steube has filed 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.

The bill defines a craft distillery as one that is “a licensed distillery that produces 250,000 or fewer gallons per calendar year of distilled spirits on its premises.”

Such a business would pay just $1,000 for a licence under the new bill, while those “engaged in the business of rectifying and blending spirituous liquors and nothing else” will continue to pay $4,000.

More importantly, the bill would remove restrictions on how much distilleries can sell directly to customers. The current law says customers may purchase two bottles per brand/style per year.

St. Augustine Distillery co-founder and CEO Philip McDaniel, who was not involved in the authoring of the bill, said he likes what he sees in the language.

He’s helped previous bills, with assistance from former Rep. Doc Renuart, relating to craft distilleries. When he was still in the building stage of the St. Augustine Distillery, there was no option for customers to buy directly from the site. Then the law was changed to allow two bottles per year before being amended to two bottles per brand per year.

“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 afloat/profitable approximately 30 new businesses.”

McDaniel said he simply wants the same ability that wineries, like St. Augustine’s San Sebastian Winery, and micro breweries have to sell directly to customers.

He said a business like his will still require the services of a distributor and will still sell liquor at retail outlets.

But selling on-site is more profitable, and it allows for customers to try the product and share it with others outside the area.

That creates more business for everyone, McDaniel said.

“We have a great relationship with our distributor, and we’ll definitely be talking to them about the bill,” he said. “My hope is we can all work together to make this work.

“The success that we’ve had at the distillery has done nothing but help sales through our distributor and other retailers.”

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.

“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,” Hutson said via text.

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