Posted by: Feb 07, 2021

Grand Cafe Brasserie. CC license. Credit Jennifer Morrow on Flikr.com.

Florida restaurants that want to sell beer, wine and liquor–whether at a restaurant bar or to seated customers–must have a 4COP-SFS (formerly known as 4COP-SRX) license issued by the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco (ABT) pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 561.20(2)(a)4. To get a 4COP-SFS license, a Florida restaurant must meet the following three requirements:

  1. Maintain at least 2,500 square feet of service area.
  2. Have the capacity to serve meals to at least 150 persons at one time.
  3. Derive at least 51% of its gross food and beverage revenues from food and nonalcoholic beverages.

Requirement 1: At Least 2,500 SF of Service Area

The Service Area Requirement means that only restaurants of a minimum size are permitted to have a 4COP-SFS license. However, “service area” is generally interpreted by the ABT very broadly. The dining room is part of the service area, of course, but the kitchen is also. So are office and storage spaces. So are the restrooms. Outdoor seating is also part of the service area, as long as the restaurant has the legal right to use the space (according to the lease or deed).

The only part of a restaurant’s floor plan that is not part of the service area, for purposes of meeting the Service Area Requirement, is any part that (1) is not covered by the restaurant’s Public Food Service (PFS) license issued by the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants, or (2) is covered by a different alcoholic beverage license, such as a manufacturing license (for a brewery or winery), bottle club license, or package store license.

Requirement 2: Serve Meals to 150 Persons at One Time

Only restaurants that are capable of serving meals to at least 150 persons at one time are allowed to get and keep a 4COP-SFS license. The ABT has interpreted this requirement to mean serving at least 150 persons full meals that are consumed one the premises. In other words, it is not enough that a restaurant have a kitchen capable of preparing 150 meals at one time. The restaurant must also have tables, chairs, servers and service capacity that is sufficient to serve those meals to 150 persons present in the restaurant at the same time. In other words, a restaurant’s robust carryout or Uber Eats business is not enough.

To determine whether a restaurant meets the 150 Persons Requirement, the ABT generally takes into account three sources of information:

  1. The number of seats reflected on the restaurant’s Public Food Service Establishment (PFS) license;
  2. The maximum building occupancy allowed by the fire marshal; and
  3. The maximum capacity rating provided by the local water treatment and sewer authority.

Requirement 3: 51% of Revenue from Food and Nonalcoholic Beverages

A restaurant that is granted a 4COP-SFS license must continue to derive at least 51% of its food and beverage gross revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages. The ABT confirms that this requirement is met by by reviewing the restaurant’s sales records.

When a new 4COP-SFS is issued, the ABT will review the restaurant’s food and beverage sales records after the first 60 or 90 days. If those records show that more than 49% of revenue comes from alcoholic beverage sales, the ABT will generally allow the restaurant another 60 to 90 days to show compliance with the 51% Sales Requirement. After that additional time, if the restaurant’s records still reflect that more than 49% of revenue comes from alcoholic beverage sales, then the 4COP-SFS license will be canceled. In that event, the restaurant must choose among: (1) purchasing a 4COP quota license (for which there is a limited number per county), (2) applying for a 2COP beer and wine only license, or (3) no alcoholic beverage license.

On an annual basis, the ABT will review the restaurant’s food and beverage sales records to confirm that it continues to meet the 51% Sales Requirement.

4COP-SFS License Does Not Allow Package Sales

An important limitation of the 4COP-SFS license is that it is limited by statute to sales of alcoholic beverages for consumption on sales only. That is, a 4COP-SFS licensed restaurant is statutory prohibited from making package sales of beer, wine, or liquor for consumption off premises. For breweries and wineries, this would prohibit filling growlers or sales of canned or bottled products.

There are a couple exceptions to the statutory prohibition against packaged sales. First, partially consumed wine bottles can be resealed and taken home by the customer. Second, the Florida Governor’s temporary (but seemingly permanent) emergency order allows 4COP-SFS licensed restaurants to sell alcohol to go during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Do you have questions about retail alcoholic beverage licenses for Florida restaurants? We’d love to discuss it with you. Contact us at contact@brewerlong.com to schedule a consultation.

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