The Senate could soon tip a bill to reduce restrictions on craft distilleries toward the House after giving that legislation its initial approval on Thursday.
Sen. Travis Hutson‘s bill (SB 46) would eliminate production caps and open the door for distilleries to sell their drinks in more ways. Other states are raising their caps on craft distilleries and providing them with more flexibility, the St. Augustine Republican told senators earlier this year.
“This puts us on the same playing field with our craft distilleries as every other state in the nation,” Hutson told senators.
To achieve that, the proposal would raise the annual production limit at craft distilleries from 75,000 to 250,000 gallons. It would also give distilleries in entertainment venues, such as wedding and concert venues, greater flexibility to dress up their drinks to effectively act as a bar.
No distilleries could deliver or ship drinks directly to consumers, like how the three tier system normally splits manufacturers, distributors and vendors. However, all craft distilleries could sell their drinks to consumers by the drink or package, but only in face-to-face transactions.
“When I say by the drink, I mean it would be their product that they distill with bitters to serve as a drink to their patrons that come in,” Hutson said.
Beginning in July 2026, the bill would also require recipes to include at least one agricultural product grown in Florida. And by that date, 60% of the drink must be distilled in the Sunshine State.
For destination entertainment venues, the bill outlines a particular set of requirements for a business to qualify. Among those requirements are that qualifying venues must be adjacent to bicycle or pedestrian trails and mass transit routes.
Rep. Nick DiCeglie is carrying the House companion bill (HB 737). The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee advanced his version later Thursday afternoon.
“We’re trying to make it easier for the consumer to get the product,” DiCeglie said. “We’re trying to make it easier for the distilleries to get their product out there.”
The Indian Rocks Beach Republican told the committee he plans to amend his bill to make it identical to Hutson’s.
Americans for Prosperity-Florida and the Florida Brewers’ Guild are among the groups supporting the maesure.
Deregulating the alcohol industry has been a popular topic in recent years. The latest major effort is to allow restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic drinks to-go, a practice approved on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 pandemic.