Florida Beverage Legislation: Self-Distribution is On the Menu

Senate Bill 554 hopes to bring limited self-distribution to Florida’s breweries, but the legislation may only apply to new and small breweries.

The past several sessions of the Florida Legislature have seen the introduction of bills aimed at changing the alcoholic beverage industry. The 2017 session of the Florida Legislature is shaping up no differently. The 2017 session does not officially convene until March 7, 2017, but 8 bills affecting the alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and/or vendors have already been filed.

Florida breweries (and especially breweries-in-planning) may be most interested in Senate Bill 554, introduced by Senators Dana Young and Jack Latvala. Senate Bill 554 would allow certain Florida breweries to engage in limited self-distribution. That’s right: self-distribution–the Holy Grail of craft breweries–is on Florida’s legislative menu this year. However, this isn’t self-distribution for all.

Senate Bill 554 would allow certain Florida breweries to sell, transport, and deliver beer kegs (no cans or bottles) directly in Florida. Participating breweries would have to abide by all the regular distributor-vendor rules, except that beer kegs could be transported in vehicles owned or leased by brewery owners and licensed mangers.

The bill allows self-distribution only to Florida breweries that meet the following qualifications:

  • Must have a vendor license (that is, must have a licensed taproom or tasting room attached to the brewery);
  • Must produce less than 7,000 kegs (3,500 barrels) of beer annually; and
  • Must not have a distribution agreement with a distributor licensed in Florida.

That breweries with distribution agreements are precluded from self-distribution, along with sales of cans and bottles, may mean that this bill has real appeal only to Florida smallest breweries and those just getting started in the business. Still, self-distribution, even in a limited capacity, is a big shift from the traditional Three Tier System. Slowly, slowly, that shift is continuing to move in the Florida alcoholic beverage industry.

As a caveat, a lot still needs to happen before Senate Bill 554 becomes law–if it becomes law. As of this date (February 5, 2017), no companion bill has been introduced in the Florida House of Representatives. However, SB 554 will be one to watch during the two-month 2017 legislative session.

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