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Rep. Steube proposing to remove two-bottle limit at Florida distilleries

SARASOTA -- At Drum Circle Distilling, two is not enough.

The makers of the award-winning Siesta Key Rum have run into the same problem as other Florida craft distilleries that can only sell two bottles per year per person. All that could change if a Bradenton lawmaker is successful.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, has included language in House Bill 107 that would eliminate the restriction of sales at distilleries in Florida. The same bill also addresses craft brewery licenses to operate tap rooms.

"Why should government stand in the way?" Steube said, adding that he doesn't understand why wineries can sell as much as they can but distilleries are limited.

Troy Roberts, founder, CEO and distiller of the Sarasota-made rum, is happy to have the restriction removed if the bill succeeds.

"If I could sell them those bottles I could hire more people to do some of the work I do," he said inside his tasting room Tuesday.

His newest batch of rum, toasted coconut, is a prime example of problems created by the law. The small-batch limited release isn't big enough to distribute to stores, so customers have to come in to buy it. He just released Batch No. 2, which means if someone bought two bottles of the

first batch and want the second batch within a year -- too bad.

"One of the beauties of being a craft distillery is we can make all these cool, small batch products," Roberts said. "But they're not big enough to go through the standard channels. People get frustrated because they can't buy them."

Clarence Elek stopped by Drum Circle Distilling on Tuesday afternoon to pick up an oversized bottle of toasted coconut rum -- the distiller's newest release. He would love to have the restriction lifted.

"We usually give them as gifts for folks who come in from out of town," he said. "It's kind of special to give them a bottle we brought at a tasting and get it signed." Roberts will sign the bottles at customers' request.

He's gotten around that restriction somewhat by selling 1.75 L bottles instead of the standard 750ml bottle. Still Roberts is self-restricting the toasted coconut -- selling just one bottle per person. The limit is because the last time he released the newest recipe, there was a three-hour long line of people trying to get their hands on the newest rum.

This time he took half of the second batch and shipped 750ml bottles to distributors.

"We want to work with them. They help us out, we help them out," Roberts said. "We would have made more money keeping it ourselves but you try to be fair."

Steube said he expects his bill to be heard in the coming weeks. The bill is in the Business and Professions Subcommittee.

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