Aardwolf Brewing Gets 'Noncompliance' Letter; Owner Maintains He Did Nothing Wrong
With no end in sight for bars across Florida that are prohibited from allowing drinking on premises, the state is making an example of at least one Jacksonville brewery, according to its owner.
Three armed members of Florida's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) visited the Aardwolf Brewing Company last week, giving the business a Record of Inspection in which a Notice of Noncompliance was check marked, according to co-owner Preben Olsen.
But Olsen told WJCT News Monday afternoon that to the best of his knowledge he has been in compliance.
"We have been compliant for the last two-and-a-half weeks of being shut down. There was no acohol being served," he said.
He provided WJCT News with a copy of the letter which shows the "warning" section check box scratched out and apparently changed to "informational," meaning, according to Olsen that his business wasn't actually out of compliance.
WJCT News has reached out to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation asking for clarification about the letter its ABT agents delivered to Aardwolf.
If a response is received, this story will be updated.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said over the weekend the state isn’t changing its decision last month to reimpose a ban on bars' selling alcohol for on-site consumption because of widespread non-compliance with coronavirus safety measures.
Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage
“So, right now, we're not making any changes, status quo,” DeSantis said while at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton on Saturday. “We want to get this positivity rate down."
Olsen said the move has forced his business to backtrack to the former to-go only model.
“We're doing, you know, six packs, crowlers, merchandise, anything and everything we can. It's just gotten a lot harder with the second shutdown," Olsen said Monday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.
The brewery’s biggest push at the moment is trying to get customers to reach out to local legislators.
"Ask them why... if you're going to go and try to shut down the market, you need to shut down the market, limit hours, limit licenses,” he said.
Olsen was referring to some bars that have been allowed to remain open because they are serving limited menus of food such as nachos and chicken wings.
“I feel specifically our industry is being unfairly targeted,” he said.
Olsen theorizes his business has been targeted because he has spoken out and contacted Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears, who oversees the the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.
"To be honest, I would suspect the state came because I had spoken with the head of the DBPR recently," he said. Olsen said the brewery will remain closed until at least Thursday as he looks at how the state moves forward.
A group of bar owners filed a lawsuit July 3 against DeSantis in Volusia County circuit court over the ban on on-site drink sales, arguing it has effectively forced businesses to close. The state order doesn’t affect restaurants that derive less than half of their gross revenue from the sale of alcohol.
The state has announced four alcohol licenses have been suspended since the on-site consumption ban was reimplemented.
“If you're going to open it all up, you need to open it all up. Wherever you stand. We are just asking to be treated fairly," Olsen said.
Correction and Clarication: An earlier version of this story said the federal ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) served the Notice of Noncompliance to Aardwolf Brewing Copany. Instead, it was the state ATB (Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco) that served the notice. The story has also been clarified to make it clear that Olsen believes he has been complying with the order, despite receiving the noncompliance notice from the state.