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Craft distillers to get fee break under new law

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.

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Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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