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Craft distilleries bill advances in House

Holly Raschein bill also lets service dogs into tastings.

A change in law letting distilleries bottle drinks in a wider variety of sizes has cleared its first hurdle in the Florida House.

Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key West Republican, stressed the legislation aims to let more Florida-based distilleries take advantage of market needs. The bill (HB 1165) does this by repealing statutes related to wine and cider container size limitations and by specifying restaurant patrons may take home a partially consumed bottle of wine with the purchase of a meal.

The legislation passed in the House Business and Professions Subcommittee, where it was one of multiple pieces of legislation aimed at lifting restrictions on alcohol businesses.

Should the legislation become law, distillers could blend bottled spirits together.

It would also increase the maximum production threshold for craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons and allow up to 75,000 gallons to be sold straight from a company’s own gift shop.

It also authorizes the issuance of up to three vendor’s licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages on a distillery’s premises. Moreover, it lets distilleries hold tastings and tours anywhere liquor can legally be sold.

Rep. Wengay Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat, questioned whether the legislation would end up letting distilleries go around existing rules on distribution. Raschein stressed that was not the intention of the bill.

Another important part of the bill allows dogs to move around distilleries, something that gained the attention of Subcommittee Chair Heather Fitzenhagen. The Fort Myers Republican wanted clarity on how that would impact food and beverage health protections.

Raschein noted the legislation would change the law that now forbids dogs from being on the premises for distilleries, there still would be restrictions on where canines could go. The bill would let service animals be accommodated but still won’t let animals on counters where food gets served or prepared and prohibits animals from having any contact with any items that come in contact with food. Dog waste must be cleaned up immediately, and areas must be kept sanitized in line with health regulations.

Rep. Matt Willhite, a Palm Beach Democrat, supported the legislation but did ask that regulations involving craft alcohol industries be looked at more “holistically.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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