A Summary of the 2018 Florida Legislative Session & Florida’s Alcohol Beverage Law

As Spring finally arrives, many state legislatures are concluding this year’s session of lawmaking. In some jurisdictions, the changes to state alcohol laws have been minimal. For example, despite calls from legislative leaders to reform Massachusetts’ controversial beer franchise laws, a state legislative committee failed to advance a trio of competing reform bills offered by brewers and wholesalers by the February 7th deadline.

In other states, the new laws will have a significant impact on how alcoholic beverages are produced, distributed, marketed and sold within the state. For example, in Kentucky, the state legislature passed HB 400, which allows the state’s distilleries and small farm wineries to avoid the traditional three-tier system when selling to visiting tourists by amending KRS 243.0305 and KRS 243.155, respectively, to allow the producers to ship product and monthly club membership orders directly to those consumers; they legislature even passed the new laws as “emergency” measures, so that they could take effect immediately upon receiving the Governor’s signature.

During the 2018 Florida legislative session, several important bills affecting the alcohol beverage industry successfully passed both chambers and were signed into law by Governor Scott. Here is a quick recap of the relevant laws.

House Bill 1265, amending section 565.02, Florida Statutes, to remove liquor bottle size restrictions for intrastate railroad or sleeping cars. The new language underscores that only operators of interstate railroads and sleeping cars are prohibited from selling miniature bottles of no more than two (2) ounces. This means that trains traveling only within the State can sell all the “miniatures” they want. If you find yourself on a Florida train, you are likely to now have a wide variety of “nips” at your disposal. If you are crossing state lines, no such luck.

House Bill 667, which amends Section 561.57, Fla. Stat. to now allow deliveries by vendors (retailers) in third-party vehicles. With the plethora of alcohol delivery services now available in the State, it is no surprise that the statutory language was modified to expressly allow alcohol deliveries in a “third party vehicle” that has contracted with the retailer to make deliveries. This applies to orders placed electronically, by phone, or by mail. The amended statute also requires that purchasers be ID’d and age verified at the time of delivery. Manufacturers and distributors are stuck with the old law; they can make deliveries only in vehicles that they lease or own.

House Bill 961, Florida restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and other places where alcohol is sold for on-premise consumption should take note that they are now allowed to receive free branded glassware from malt beverage (beer) manufacturers and distributors. Prior law required that retailers buy the glassware. Beware that distributors are capped at giving no more than 10 cases of glassware per calendar year, per retail account. Records of these glassware gifts must be kept for three years by both the seller (manufacturer or distributor) and retailer (vendor), and the size of “glassware” that can be given by a distributor or supplier is capped at 23 ounces of liquid volume per glass.

HB 1447, which creates a special alcohol licensing district for the City of Orlando. This law makes it easier for smaller Orlando restaurants to get a full liquor license by reducing the square footage and seating requirements for those restaurants within the “Downtown Restaurant Area.”