Brewers’ Law 101: Florida Brewing Licenses

By Quinn Dombrowski. Used with permission under Creative Common license.

By Quinn Dombrowski. Used with permission under Creative Common license.

Brewers and breweries in Florida are regulated on both the state and federal levels.  In this post we will discuss the regulation at the state level.

You Need a CMB License or a CMBP License

Brewers in Florida who want to make beer and sell it must have a CMB license or CMBP license. CMB stands for “Cereal Malt Beverage”. The CMB license or CMBP is issued by the Florida Division of Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco (ABT), a division of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The CMB license is authorized by Florida Statutes Section 563.02(2). This brewpub exception is authorized by Florida Statutes Section 561.221(3), which contains numerous restrictions.

To get a CMB license or CMBP license, a Florida brewer must file the Application for New Alcoholic Beverage License (DBPR Form ABT-6001) with the ABT (in addition to federal filing requirements). The ABT application requires detailed information about the brewery premises and everyone having a financial interest in the brewery. The annual fee for a CMB license is currently $3,000, and for a CMBP license the annual fee is $500. In additional to the annual licensing fee, a brewery with a CMB or CMBP license must maintain a tax bond of at least $20,000.

To Serve Beer, You Need More

For brewers wanting to sell beer directly to the public, having only a CMB license isn’t enough. Florida has a relatively strict three-tier system for alcoholic beverages, the goal of which is to keep manufacturers, distributors, and retailers separate. Florida’s Tied House Evil Statute generally prohibits a brewer from having any financial interest in a retail operation. However, two exceptions to the three-tier system allow Florida brewers to be licensed to sell their beer (and the beer of others’) directly to the public. 

 

Taproom Exception

First, a Florida brewer can apply for a license to operate a taproom as part of the brewery. This exception makes possible taprooms according to Florida Statutes Section 561.221(2).  In addition to the CMB license, a Florida brewer operating a taproom must obtain a vendor license which permits the sale of beer for consumption on the premises or in sealed containers for take-away (common licenses for this purpose are the 2COP beer-and-wine only license and the 4COP quota license). A brewer must file a separate ABT application for a 2COP or 4COP license. The filing fee currently ranges from $168 to $1,820 depending on the license and the county size.

The Brewpub Exception

Second, a retailer licensed to sell beer on its premises can be licensed as a brewpub, in which case it can make its own beer.  Despite the similarity in the name of the license to a CMB, the CMBP license is obtained by filing a retailer’s application for a brewpub special qualification for the consumption on premise (2COP or 4COP in most cases) license. It comes with specific restrictions. The brewpub cannot make more than 10,000 kegs (5,000 barrels) of beer each year, and the beer can only be served on the brewpub’s premises. None of the beer can be sold to a distributor.

Questions?

If you are a brewer and have any questions with this process or any other legal question with your start-up or existing brewery, email us at beer@brewerlong.com and we will be happy to assist you.