How to Start a Brew Pub in Florida

Any time you wish to open an establishment in Florida that serves or sells alcohol in any form, you must meet licensing requirements at both state and local levels. To start a brew pub in Florida requires dedication to the process, as well as a significant amount of time and start-up capital. In the truest definition of a brew pub, you will not only be brewing beer, but also serving it and preparing and serving food to patrons as well. Thus, you will need to obtain the appropriate licenses from several different agencies in Florida and your local county and city.

Develop a detailed business plan that outlines the structure of your business, how it will operate, what beers you will produce and at what quantities, accounting methods and advertising strategies, and where you will obtain the necessary money and equipment to start your brewing. Additionally, you will need employment/hiring policies, emergency contingency plans and safety and legal compliance rules in place.

Find a location for your brew pub. Unless you intend to build a new structure, the existing site must be spacious enough to hold the various tanks you will need, have adequate plumbing and drainage to handle the large amounts of water used in the beer brewing process, a commercial kitchen where you can prepare food, and proper storage for both beer and food products. The building must also be handicap accessible, provide adequate restroom facilities and have space enough in the restaurant/bar portion for patrons to sit comfortably and for servers to move without hindrance.

Contact the local zoning and building authorities in your county to determine if any permits or regulations apply to the preparation of your building and the process of turning it into a brew pub, especially if you will be remodeling an existing or constructing a new building.

Prepare your brew pub for operation, if allowed. Hire an architectural or construction professional to prepare scaled drawings of your entire brew pub, the brewing area, and of the kitchen/restaurant area. Make at least three copies of each.

File a fictitious business name or DBA -- doing business as -- certificate with the Florida Secretary of State. In addition, obtain a state employer ID number and a sales/use tax permit from the Florida Department of Revenue. You will also need a Federal Employer Identification Number, or FEIN, from the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS.

Apply for a business license and the appropriate tax permits with your local county and/or city government. Additionally, contact the local Public Health department and water/waste management municipality to obtain any needed well, septic or waterwaste disposal permits.

Complete and submit the Combined Application for Public Food Service License and Plan Review to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, or DBPR, Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Included with the application must be the appropriate fees, copies of the scaled drawings of your brew pub, your state and federal tax information, a sample menu, and copies of all of the zoning, water, and other local permits you must possess.

Prepare for an inspection by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants within 60 days of receipt of your application. You must meet all safety, space and equipment requirements to obtain a license. If the inspection discovers any areas that do not meet requirements, you will receive notification of these deficiencies outlining a specific time period within which to fix them and undergo another inspection to obtain licensure.

Apply for a license to brew and distribute beer from the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, or ABT, and a temporary license if desired. Your application must include copies all local permits you are required to possess, such as zoning, tax and waste management; a copy of your Public Food Service license; a set of fingerprints; your Social Security number and state and Federal tax information; any business contracts or agreements, including vendor contracts/agreements; a copy of your deed or lease to prove Right of Occupancy; a surety bond purchased from a provider approved to do business in Florida; and copies of the drawings of your establishment. You must also sign the application in the presence of a notary prior to submission.

Advertise and open your brew pub while you are awaiting your beer manufacturing/distributing license. Since you already have your Public Food Service license, you can serve food at any time. If you paid for and received the temporary beer manufacturing/distributing license during the Florida ABT licensing process, you may also begin brewing and serving beer.