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craft distilleries

Craft distillers to get fee break under new law

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Craft distillers got another win in legislation approved by Gov. Rick Scott on Friday.

The governor signed into law a wide-ranging bill (HB 689) that changes the state’s alcoholic beverage laws.

Among the changes taking effect Saturday, the first day of the new budget year, it cuts the “annual license fee for a craft distillery from $4,000 to $1,000.”

“Craft distilleries that qualify for the craft distillery designation will see a 75 percent reduction in the annual license fee for a distillery license, or a savings of $3,000 per license each year,” according to a staff analysis.

“We’re grateful for the legislation and to Rep. Colleen Burton and Sen. Keith Perry,” who sponsored the bills in the House and Senate respectively, said Philip McDaniel, co-founder and CEO of St. Augustine Distillery. “This will allow more start-up distilleries to compete and become more profitable, more quickly.”

The bill also defines sake, the Japanese fermented-rice beverage, as “wine” under state law.

Florida law had defined wine as being made from fruit so sake was technically not wine. Theoretically, restaurants could have been forced to stop serving sake, and the language fixes the potential issue.

Moreover, the bill eases regulations on “caterers licensed to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits,” the analysis said.

And the measure expressly allows minors to work in stores selling beer, wine or liquor so long as someone over 18 is supervising them.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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