Senate panel wants to reduce restrictions on craft distillers

Other states have lifted restrictions, making Florida less competitive.

A Senate panel advanced a bill Tuesday that would loosen restrictions on craft distilleries in Florida, an attempt to put them on par with other states.

Sen. Travis Hutson‘s proposal (SB 46) would raise the annual sales limit at craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons. The bill would also give distilleries in entertainment venues, such as wedding and concert venues, greater flexibility to serve other alcohol to effectively act as a bar.

The bill would also remove quantity limits on to-go orders, but prohibit delivery and to-go orders from craft distilleries unless those purchases are made in person.

Other states are raising their caps on craft distilleries and providing them with more flexibility, the St. Augustine Republican told the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

“It’s putting our state, our businesses, behind the eight ball,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is trying to get it back on par with them.”

Deregulating the alcohol industry has been a popular topic in recent years.

Hutson, who is again the Regulated Industries Committee Chair after chairing that panel from 2016 to 2018, noted this is his first time carrying an alcohol-related bill in his more than six years in the Senate. That didn’t stop senators from giving his legislation their unanimous approval.

Republican Sens. Ben AlbrittonKathleen Passidomo and Ray Rodrigues all said Hutson’s proposal helps the distillery industry while protecting the three tier system — the classic manufacturer-distributor-vendor distinction made in the alcohol business in much of the United States.

“I hope at the end of the day, the next time I get a chance to look at this thing, it looks the same and I would certainly encourage you to not push any more on the expansion,” Albritton said.

Hutson’s bill next heads to the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, which isn’t slated to meet during its next opportunity on Monday. This year, Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Josie Tomkow have filed legislation (SB 134/HB 329) to enshrine cocktails-to-go in state law, a practice temporarily approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is so far no House companion proposal for Hutson’s bill.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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