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Bill That Would Help Craft Distillers Clears Florida House

Heather Schatz
St. Augustine Distillery

With the craft liquor distillery business booming in Florida, state lawmakers are pushing to ease rules on how distillers sell spirits.

The House last week passed a bill (HB 1219) that would, among other things, allow distilleries to ship out of state, increase how much they can produce and eliminate limits on how many bottles they can directly sell to customers.

Phil McDaniels is CEO of the St. Augustine Distillery; which produces rum, vodka, gin and bourbon. He said those changes would put Florida on the map.

“If these laws were changed in the course of 10 years, you’d probably see between 150 and 200 new distilleries pop up in the state of Florida, each making something unique and special to their particular community,” he said

McDaniels, who’s been lobbying lawmakers, said some of those laws have been in the books for nearly 100 years. Examples include a production cap of 75,000 gallons and a six bottle per customer limit.

Under the House proposal, the production threshold would be raised to 250,000 gallons, and the per-customer limit would be completely eliminated.

The number of craft liquor distilleries has grown considerably over the past decade, with 60 licensed distilleries operating in Florida, according to the bill analysis. McDaniels said that’s partly because of the creativity and innovation distillers are applying in the industry.

“I think particularly for millennials and younger generations, they want to know how things are made,” he said. “They want to know the story behind the how and the why, and they want to support local business.”

The bill would also allow wine sales in any size individualized containers, which would result in customers being able to take home partly consumed wine bottles. Dogs and cats would also be allowed on the premises.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, cleared the House Thursday by a vote of 71-41.

The Senate companion still needs to pass this week before the proposal can go before Governor Ron DeSantis.