ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- There's a new push to repeal a prohibition-era law that keeps you from buying a bottle of spirits on site at a distillery.
A St. Augustine entrepreneur says one Florida law is keeping sales of his homemade spirits from pouring into the local economy.
Philip McDaniel is brewing up a new business. His plan will help revamp Riberia Street in downtown St. Augustine. McDaniel is renovating an 8,000-square-foot building that will house a state-of-the-art distillery and museum.
St. Augustine Distillery will feature original batches of rum, whiskey and vodka. Right now, customers will be able to taste but not take home any of the product.
That's not the case for wineries like San Sebastian just down the block or any of Jacksonville's many micro-breweries.
"There is an unfairness issue because, you know, imagine going into a store and seeing something you want to buy then the retailer saying 'I'm sorry, I can't sell it to you."
"If you can sell a grape, why can't you sell a grain that's been distilled," asked Brendan Wheatley.
A local lawmaker is pushing legislation to repeal the "outdated" law and allow distilleries to sell products directly to the customer on site.
Executive director of St. Johns County tourist development council, Glenn Hastings, says the measure will help spur jobs.
"In order to sustain growth, we will need to develop new product and add new reasons for people to visit Florida," said Hastings. "I see this bill as helping to achieve this goal. We have seen the benefits Kentucky has enjoyed from promotion of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and I think Florida can do even better. I can already envision the Florida Heritage Hootch Trail. It’s about an authentic Florida product, Florida agriculture, Florida lifestyle and jobs."
McDaniel bought and planted 5,000 stalks of sugar cane in a local farm. "We're going to harvest that cane, press it, create that juice and bring that here and make rum. And we think by using and supporting our local farmers, we'll be strengthening our local economy."
The bill, HB 347, was recently rejected by a narrow vote in a House subcommittee. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ronald Renuart, a republican from Ponte Vedra, isn't giving up on the measure and adding more protective language.
McDaniel is hopeful it will eventually win support in Florida's House and Senate.
Meantime, McDaniel says his business will go on as planned and aims for opening St. Augustine Distillery by Christmas 2013.