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Proposed state legislation would assist craft breweries

February 17, 2017
By TIFFANY REPECKI (trepecki@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A bill making its way through the Florida Senate would ease up on regulations for craft distilleries.

Sponsored by state Sen. Greg Steube, SB 166 would allow distilleries to sell more product to the public, set up a shop or store for their product within the same county as where they manufacture and produce more product while remaining a craft distillery, according to the proposed bill's language.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Brandes and Travis Hutson, was filled on Dec. 14.

Last week, it passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with a 5-4 vote.

"It's been through one committee, so we're thankful about that," JoAnn Elardo, owner of the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery in Cape Coral, said. "(Sen.) Lizbeth Benacquisto has supported this bill."

Benacquisto voted in favor of the bill at last week's committee vote.

Fact Box

SB 166 would allow distilleries to sell more product to the public, set up a shop or store for their product within the same county as where they manufacture and produce more product while remaining a craft distillery, according to the proposed bill's language. Breweries that would benefit include Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery in Cape Coral as it would allow the sale of more product to the public.

She could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

According to Elardo, the biggest improvement would be the right to sell more product to the public. Under current law, only two bottles - using the UPC codes - can be sold each year to a person.

"We have a lot of people that come into the distillery and want to support us, but they can't because they've already hit their limit," she said.

Elardo added that businesses want to buy cases to give bottles away as gifts, but cannot.

"So we're looking for an expansion of that law," she said.

Wicked Dolphin could expand its business by at least 25 percent with the change.

"With expansion like that the local farmers are able to supply us more, as well as local advertising companies - we'll have more of a marketing budget," Elardo said.

"We would hire more at the distillery and at the tastings because we could get our name out there more," she added. "It's an expansion of the business all over."

The proposed bill also would permit Lee County distilleries to establish a shop within the county. For instance, downtown Fort Myers does not allow manufacturing. The bill makes way for a presence.

"They will accept a retail storefront," Elardo said. "It will let us put in a tasting room, kind of like a company store, within the county that we work within."

"Craft distilleries don't have the marketing dollars that those larger brands have," she added.

Additional locations would help the distilleries inform the public about their products.

The proposed bill also increases the quantity of product that can be made. Currently, craft distilleries are defined as up to 75,000 gallons. The bill would increase the capped amount to 250,000 gallons.

"We're asking for typical things that most distilleries have throughout the U.S.," Elardo said. "We are nowhere near the rules and regulations they have in Colorado or Oregon or elsewhere."

She noted that Florida's laws have not been touched since the 1930s.

"Our alcohol laws are very antiquated," Elardo said.

In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill allowing craft distilleries to sell directly to public. Since its implementation, the number of Florida distilleries have jumped from two or three to about 26.

According to Elardo, distilleries bring in revenue and support local economies.

"Wicked Dolphin draws 200,000 people each year," she said.

SB 166 is currently in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

 
 
 

 

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