Compliance Checkup for Florida Alcoholic Beverage Companies

Happy New Year!

The beginning of the year is a great time for alcoholic beverage industry members–manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers–to review the events of the prior and confirm that they have taken care of regulatory compliance. In addition to periodic reporting required at the federal and state levels, changes to ownership, management, or premises triggers the requirement to update regulators. Beverage companies that do not regularly evaluate their compliance might be surprised to learn from a government auditor that they are out of compliance.

Following is a non-exhaustive list of regulatory checkup items that the managers of Florida alcoholic beverage companies should review at least annually.

Were Florida alcoholic beverage licenses renewed?

Florida manufacturing and wholesale licenses are required to be renewed by October 1 of each year. Alcoholic beverage retail licenses in one-half of counties renew in October and those in the other half of counties renew April 1. If the annual licensing fee was not paid timely, the license enters a Default status before it becomes Inactive. The ABT usually sends notice about a default, but not always. To be sure, it’s a good idea to look up the status of each license at the DBPR’s License Search website.

For manufacturers and wholesalers (including distributors, importers, and broker sales agents), have all required operational reports and excise tax returns filed with the TTB and the ABT?

Monthly reports are required to be filed with the ABT for each manufacturing or wholesale license, whether or not alcoholic beverage products have been made, sold, or acquired during that month. Likewise, manufacturers and importers are required to file with the TTB operational reports and excise tax returns, monthly or quarterly depending on volume and commodity type, even for periods without activity. If any of those periodic reports or returns were missed, they should be filed as soon as possible.

Does the licensed company have copies of its records for the past 3 years?

Manufacturers and wholesalers are required to keep copies of incoming and outgoing purchase orders and bills of lading for alcoholic beverages. Restaurants that are operating under a 4COP-SFS license are required to keep records of its retail sales of alcohol and sales of food and non-alcoholic beverages. All of these records must be accessible by auditors at the licensed premises, unless a variance has been granted.

Have there been changes in the company’s owners or managers?

Florida laws and regulations require that any additional owners must be reported prior to taking ownership. At the federal level, a change in ownership of 10% or greater is required to be reported to the TTB within 30 days. In additional to owners, employees who have managerial authority concerning compliance with alcoholic beverage regulations must be reported to the TTB and ABT.

Have there been changes to the licensed premises?

Perhaps part of the premises that had been used for retail sales was converted for use in manufacturing, or vice versa. Perhaps the licensed premises was expanded by leasing or acquiring an adjoining unit. Perhaps a change was made to the interior barriers that separate the manufacturing space from the retail space. Changes to the licensed premises like this–and many other possible changes–must be reported to the TTB and the ABT. Approval is required to be secured prior to changes being made. If that hasn’t happened, the changes should be reported as soon as possible.

Did the licensed company begin using offsite storage?

Alcoholic beverage products–whether tax unpaid or taxpaid–must be stored in permitted areas. If products are being stored offsite, a state storage permit is required for the storage area. At the federal level, it might be necessary to request a variance for manufacturer’s wanting to store products offsite. If permission to store products offsite was not obtained in advance, application should be made for the necessary permission as soon as possible.

Is the licensed company operating under a different or additional trade name?

A change to the company’s “doing business as” name must be reported to the TTB and the ABT. At the state level, this is especially required when a beverage company adopts different signage. Filing a licensing amendment with the TTB is also required in each case that a contract manufacture packages beverage products using the trade name of its customer (for instance, in the “manufacturer and bottled by” statement required on all packages).

Did the manufacturing company begin making alcoholic beverages of a different commodity type?

A manufacturer with federal and state brewing licenses cannot begin making cider or other products classified as wine without having federal and state winery licenses. Even though making “distiller’s beer” is a common step in the distilling process, and distillery cannot make beer for sale to wholesalers or retail customers without having federal and state brewing licenses. These activities should be suspended until the right licenses are obtained.

Did the manufacturing company begin making non-alcoholic beverages or food products?

In Florida, a Wholesale/Manufactured Food Establishment Permit issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is required to manufacture or wholesale non-alcoholic beverages, including bottled water. Manufacturing these products should be suspended until the permit is obtained.

For manufacturers and wholesalers, are all alcoholic beverage brands that are offered for sale registered with the ABT?

All distinctive brands of beer, wine, and distilled spirit products must be registered before they are sold in commerce.

Do you need help with your annual alcoholic beverage company checkup? Contact us to schedule a consultation with a beverage attorney.

Because we’re attorneys: Disclaimer. Posted January 8, 2023.

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