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Lawmakers look to ease restrictions on craft distilleries

Posted at 5:47 PM, Apr 03, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Sit down and stay a while! That’s what many craft distilleries in Florida hope they can tell their customers this summer if a bill currently in the Senate passes.

Matthias Kozuba and his family have made vodka and whiskey for years now. Kozuba and Son’s Distillery started in Poland in 2005 and eventually made its way to St. Petersburg two years ago.

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"Rye whiskey is typically quite spicy and gives you a lot of heat,” said Kozuba, showing off one of their products.

A lot of pride and effort goes into the production but customers can’t really reap the benefits — at least in Florida. By law distilleries can only sample their products in tasting rooms, they can’t sell by the glass.

"You try them and then you don’t just sit and relax empty-handed, so you go to a retail store and then you leave,” he said.

Senate bill 220 could change that and allow folks like Kozuba to sell their product by the glass. He says that could put them on equal ground with craft breweries in the area.

"If you go to any brewery in the area these places are always packed. But the reason why is because they can sit down, order a beer relax and talk, and just chill,” he said. "When you can sit down and actually see how this product works in a beautiful composition, cocktail composition, prepared by a professional mixologist, that’s like night and day. We are already talking to a number of local mixologists just to be ready."

The bill would also allow distilleries to sell their product to customers directly at up to eight other locations. He says that would allow them to build their brand and make their product more desirable to distributors in the future.

"We have something to offer to distributors and tell them guys we are successful, people love it, the local community gives us a lot of support. Why don’t you get a chance,” he said.

The customer could buy more too. Right now, you’re only allowed six bottles per label a year. That limit would be lifted. Kozuba says it would drive up the economy.

"More employees, more salaries, more taxes. I’m not even mentioning consumption. People leaving money here,” he said.

If the bill were to pass it would take effect in July. Click here to read the bill in full.