Clarification on ABT’s New Taproom Licensing Policy

As previously reported, the ABT has adopted a new policy requiring all taproom license applications to be reviewed in the Tallahassee district office. The new policy was announced in an email from Marie Fraher, the ABT’s Chief of Licensing, in an email to ABT licensing personnel. We obtained a copy of Ms. Fraher’s email by public records request, and you can read it here.

The ABT’s new policy requires that all license applications for a brewery taproom (generally, a 2COP license) must be reviewed by ABT licensing agent Rosalind Fields in the Tallahassee district office. Ms. Field kindly spoke to me by telephone on Friday, January 23. Following are the main takeaway points from our conversation:

  • ¬†Applicants can continue to submit license applications to their local district office, but they will all be forwarded to Ms. Fields in Tallahassee. On the other hand, applicants can send their license applications directly to Ms. Fields. This seems the best way to speed up the process.
  • Both brewery license (CMB) applications and taproom license applications must go to Ms. Fields. However, breweries can continue to submit their CMB license applications first before submitting their taproom license applications. The brewery license application and taproom license application do not need to be submitted at the same time.
  • Before Ms. Fields will review a taproom license applications, the permanent CMB license must have been issued to the brewery. This is a big change in procedure, and one that will cause several weeks of delay for every brewery taproom. The permanent CMB license will not be issued to a brewery until after an ABT field officer has inspected the premises, which generally takes 2 to 4 weeks from the time a CMB license application is submitted. Because the permanent CMB license is now required before a taproom license will be issued, it seems that a temporary CMB license will have much less value to a new brewery in most cases.
  • The ABT has not yet decided whether a second premises inspection will be required before it issues a permanent taproom license. Since a field officer inspection is required to issue the permanent CMB license, a second premises inspection before issuing the permanent taproom license seems redundant. If the ABT decides to forgo the second inspection, there would seem to be little value in obtaining a temporary taproom license.
  • Ms. Fields assured me that she will process brewery and taproom license applications as quickly as possible. The ABT is not intending to slow the issuance of either licenses, but a slowdown might be inevitable depending on volume.

Our goal is to see that brewery and taproom license applications are processed quickly and efficiently. For that reason, we will continue to coordinate as best we can with the ABT on its handling of these applications.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that the email announcing the ABT’s new policy for handling taproom licensing was dated just 3 days before FISA filed its petition challenging the ABT’s treatment of taproom licenses under the so-called tourism exception. Coincidence?