Navigating the Alcoholic Beverage Import Business in Florida: 7 Essential Tips

Generated with AI ∙ May 11, 2024 

Importing alcoholic beverages into Florida might seem like a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and preparation, it can be a lucrative venture. Whether you’re bringing in a unique tequila from Mexico or a brand-new Irish whiskey, here are seven crucial tips to help you succeed in the Sunshine State.

Secure the Necessary Licenses

To import alcoholic beverages into Florida, you need both a federal importer permit and a Florida Importer license. For example, if you’re importing a unique brand of tequila from Mexico, you’ll need these licenses to legally bring the product into the state. If you plan to expand your business to other states, you may need additional state-specific importer licenses.

Check Distributor Rights

It’s essential to confirm whether distributors have contractual or statutory exclusive rights to distribute the brands you’re importing. For instance, if a previous importer had granted exclusive distribution rights to a particular distributor for a French wine brand, those rights persist even if the supplier changes importers. This is especially important for beer and malt beverage products. In Florida and other state, the law gives beer and malt beverage distributors the exclusive right to distributor those products, nearly forever.

Establish an Exclusive Contract with the Supplier

Unlike beer distributors, importers aren’t guaranteed by state law the exclusive right to import a brand. To protect your business, secure a written exclusive import contract with the supplier. This ensures that only you have the right to import that particular brand of spirits from the supplier into Florida.

Ensure Label Compliance

All imported alcohol products require a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) before they can be sold in the U.S. For instance, if you’re importing a new brand of Irish whiskey, you’ll need to submit a label specimen to the federal TTB for approval. Remember, all packaged products sold in Florida must have “Florida” or “FL” on the label, and all labels must be registered through the Florida ABT’s online system.

File FDA Prior Notice

Before products are brought into the U.S., FDA Prior Notice must be filed. This process also requires the supplier to be registered with the FDA. As the importer, you can serve as the supplier’s U.S. Agent and handle the Prior Notice filing, ensuring a smooth import process.

Plan for U.S. Excise Taxes

deral excise taxes must be paid before alcoholic products clear U.S. Customs. As the importer, you’ll likely need to pay this tax. To offset this cost, ensure that the prices you pay to the supplier or the prices you charge to local distributors reflect part or all of the federal excise tax.

Arrange for U.S. Customs Clearance

he U.S. Customs system is complex and requires detailed paperwork for each incoming shipment. You’ll need to either become proficient at handling this paperwork or engage a reliable customs broker or freight forwarder to manage the customs-clearing process.


uccessfully importing alcoholic beverages into Florida involves navigating a complex regulatory landscape. By following these seven steps, you can ensure compliance with federal and state laws, protect your business interests, and position your company for success in the Florida market. Remember, the key to a successful import business lies in understanding and adhering to the rules that govern it.

Do you have any questions about importing alcohol? Contact us to schedule a consultation with a beverage attorney.

Because we’re attorneys: Disclaimer. Originally posted 05/11/2024.

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