On May 12, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the amended Section 561.20(2)(a)(4), Florida Statutes, which authorizes special alcoholic beverage sales by restaurants, bringing about an important change to the State’s alcohol regulatory framework. This substantial development, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2023, is expected to have a significant impact on the retail alcohol beverage industry in Florida.
A Special Food Service (SFS) alcoholic beverage license, as it is known, is issued to restaurants that meet certain statutory criteria. Prior to the passage of the May 12, 2023, amendment those state law criteria were as follows:
“A food service establishment that has 2,500 square feet of service area, is equipped to serve meals to 150 persons at one time, and derives at least 51 percent of its gross food and beverage revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages…”
The revised statute’s new language reduces the required square footage and seat count as follows:
“A bona fide food service establishment that has 2,000 square feet of service area, is equipped to serve meals to 120 persons at one time, has at least 120 physical seats available for patrons to use during operating hours, holds itself out as a restaurant and derives at least 51 percent of its gross food and beverage revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages…”
The new statute will allow restaurants with a smaller footprint to take advantage of the benefits of the SFS alcoholic beverage license and avoid the need to purchase a quota alcoholic beverage license.
Accordingly, this new law enables a qualifying restaurant that currently holds a beer and wine license (2COP), to increase its alcohol license series to the new 4COP Series SFS alcohol license, and a qualifying restaurant that currently holds a 4COP quota alcoholic beverage license, should be able to sell its quota license and apply for the 4COP Series SFS, special food service license.