As of August 1, 2019 out-of-state retailers could begin shipping wine direct-to-consumer (DtC) to Florida residents. This follows a recent determination by the Florida Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT) that extends to retailers a past court ruling that overturned Florida’s ban out-of-state wineries from shipping DtC to Florida residents.
The past ruling, Bainbridge, et al., v. Turner, came down in 2006, when the District Court found that Florida’s rule permitting in-state wineries from shipping wine DtC, but prohibiting out-of-state wineries from doing so, was unconstitutional following the Granholm v. Heald decision. The new determination by the DABT then applies that same ruling — that Florida’s prohibition on shipping wine from out-of-state sources is unconstitutional and unenforceable — to retailers in addition to wineries.
This new regulation came from a filed request asking for further clarification on the states regulations by the Indiana wine store Kahn’s Fine Wine and Spirits in May 2018. The DABT gave a statement giving out-of-state retailers the right to ship to Florida beginning August 2018, but the decision was appealed by several local wholesalers and distributors. In June 2019 the final statement was released in Kahn’s favor, officially granting out-of-state retailers to ability to ship to Florida.
Unlike other states that have recently extended DtC wine shipping privileges to retailers, there are few requirements in order to DtC ship wine to Florida. An out-of-state retailer will not need to be licensed by the state and sales tax will only be required of businesses that have nexus in the state (note, currently Florida does not have economic nexus rules). Florida DABT has the expectation that retailers shipping wine DtC to Florida residents should meet the same tax payment and reporting obligations that are on wineries. This includes remitting the state excise tax on wine, and filing a monthly report detailing the recipients’ names and addresses and certain package information.
Florida does prohibit the sale of wine in containers larger than 1 gallon, which DtC shippers should abide by; in addition, the counties of Lafayette, Liberty, and Washington are all “dry,” meaning alcohol may not be sold — or shipped — there. And as ever, DtC shippers should ensure they do not sell to anyone under the age of 21 and work only with carriers who will gather a signature from a legally-aged recipient at the time of delivery.
For those carriers, at the time of publication, FedEx has indicated that they will soon begin accepting packages containing wine going to Florida from retailers. UPS, though, is still feeling out the regulatory waters and has yet to decide to accept such packages.
The Florida market presents great opportunities to DtC wine shippers. Florida has one of the highest state populations in the country with the majority of its citizens over 21 years old. By permitting retailers to enjoy the same market that wineries have prospered in for over a decade, Floridians will have more access to rare, collectable, specialty and small production wines that before they weren’t able to have shipped.