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Craft distillery bill put on hold, then passed

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A bill to allow craft distillers to sell more product directly to customers was set for a final vote Wednesday, was instead “temporarily postponed,” then finally voted out later in the day.

The House eventually passed the measure (HB 141) by a 114-2 vote.

Its sponsor, state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, a St. Johns Republican, was one of five House members earlier in the floor session who did not vote on a contentious bill allowing Florida retailers to sell distilled spirits with other goods instead of in a separate store. 

The “whiskey and Wheaties” bill passed by a razor-thin 58-57 margin.

Her measure would let distillers sell up to six bottles of spirits per customer in a given year.

Until 2013, distillers couldn’t sell any of their product to customers. That year, lawmakers approved a change to state law allowing two bottles to be sold to an individual customer yearly.

The law was changed again to two bottles annually per customer of each brand of liquor that a distiller makes. If a craft distiller produces only one type of liquor, however, four can be sold.

Distributors and liquor stores have opposed similar measures, saying it would cut into their business.

The legislation allows distillers to bypass the three-tier system of separate alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and retailers set in place after Prohibition.

A Senate companion (SB 166) has cleared all its committees and is ready for the floor.

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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