Imagine being able to pull up a website or get on the phone and order your favorite craft bourbon or other spirit and have it delivered to your door.
That’s what the St. Augustine Distillery and other craft distillers in Florida want to make happen – and fast – as they try to make it through to the other end of the pandemic.
Appearing on WJCT News' First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Thursday, St. Augustine Distillery CFO and co-founder Mike Diaz said the idea is “glaringly obvious,” pointing out it's already allowed in states that include California and New York.
“The governors have signed emergency orders that allow the craft distillers to ship directly to consumers. So you're protecting the consumer safety, you're giving the consumers choice, the state gets the benefit of that revenue, because, by the way, consumers are ordering spirits online today, just from other states," he said.
Diaz said his industry's Florida Craft Distillers Guild is appealing directly to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Ultimately Diaz would like to see legislation passed, but in the interim he wants the governor to issue an executive order permitting direct-to-consumer sales of craft spirits.
Historically, a large percentage of the distillery’s profits have come from tours and onsite sales, which are way down due to the pandemic. Sales to bars and restaurants have also taken a big hit.
“You keep these distilleries in business, which allows us to keep jobs, which allows us to contribute back to the community," he said.
Diaz said his distillery creates an economic ripple effect in St. Augustine.
“We help bring folks into that community. They're renting hotel rooms, they're eating at restaurants, they're going to bars, they're spending money in the shops. And so it really is something that does really drive the community or drive the economy in the community in multiple ways," he said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the St. Augustine Distillery also switched to producing hand sanitizer when it was in short supply. Before the major producers caught up, that was profitable. But now that larger companies, like Purell, are meeting the increased demand, it no longer makes sense as a side venture for the distillery. The New York Times profiled the distillery's hand sanitizer venture earlier this week.
Diaz said for now, customers can still buy his spirits onsite or at area liquor stores. His guild is also asking people to contact their state representatives to advocate for direct-to-customer craft spirit sales.
To hear the entire interview with Diaz, listen to Thursday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. The show also encores at 8 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.