After limping out of the gate, a bill that’s a priority for the St. Augustine Distillery is flying through the committee process.
The bill would allow Florida distilleries to sell their products — things like vodka and rum — to customers, who would have to leave the premises to imbibe.
The burgeoning industry is trying to cast itself as a tourist attraction that uses Florida products like citrus.
“Your support will support Florida manufacturing, Florida tourism, Florida small businesses, Florida agriculture, free enterprise and Florida jobs,” said House sponsor, Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach.
His bill (HB 347) Tuesday passed the House Regulated Affairs Committee on a unanimous vote.
It’s the legislation’s third unanimous vote since the bill was rewritten to help strike a deal with beer and wine distributors.
They were concerned large companies like Bacardi could use loopholes to set up shop in Florida.
The biggest change was limiting a “craft distillery,” which is defined as producing less than 75,000 gallons annually, to selling two bottles per customer each year.
Another tweak specifies that a craft distillery can’t be owned by another distillery that produces more than 75,000 gallons annually.
After the compromise legislation was filed, distributors lined up in support of the bill, which is now headed for a vote on the Florida House.
The original legislation received enough push-back that it was withdrawn from its first committee stop. Renuart did not want the bill to go to a final vote because it would have been killed and not had the opportunity to advance.
During past committee stops, Phil McDaniel, owner of the St. Augustine Distillery, said it will be a local economic development engine.
“In our city in St. Augustine, the trains and trolleys are so excited about the new distillery,” he told members of the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee during a April 2 hearing “They have asked if they could bring their customers to us.”
The legislation’s Senate companion has one remaining committee stop.
Source: St. Augustine Record