A Volusia County distillery owner has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for breweries, distilleries and wineries that will need to renew their licenses at the end of the year after months of reduced revenue.
Ann-Marie Willacker, president of Support Volusia and owner of Odd Elixir Meads in Downtown DeLand, started the GoFundMe, citing a loss in revenue for her own business and knowing she wasn’t the only one.
“We have seen a 75-percent reduction in sales since March 2020,” she said. “Odd Elixir is a winery, so our state license is $1,000. In addition to that, we have our city fee, our county business tax receipt, and our annual tax bond.”
In order to produce alcohol in Florida, breweries pay $3,000 for a license, while distilleries are charged $4,000.
Willacker said the funds donated to the GoFundMe will be handled by a committee through Support Volusia and distributed to different bars, breweries and other businesses based on their need.
On June 26, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the closure of bars after they had been allowed to reopen at the beginning of the month. The first closure came in March, when bars and nightclubs across the state were shuttered in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
On Friday, Aug. 28, DeSantis issued an executive order that extended deadlines for renewal of licenses out to the end of the year. The original deadline was the end of September.
“While they can’t be waived yet, this offers some relief till we get the bars open. This came as a result of our meetings,” Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Halsey Beshears said on Twitter of the decision to extend the deadline.
One brewery that has been affected by the COVID-19 business closures is Blue Springs Brewing in Orange City.
Owner Harry Graham said they were lucky that the facility also had a restaurant license. Funds have been tight, but they were able to stay open and serve takeout food when many breweries were shut down entirely.
“It’s been tough, but the restaurant business is very rarely anything easy,” Graham said. “During these days of very slow recovery, every cent represents a significant opportunity cost and potential to jeopardize necessary cash flow.”
He said he doesn’t think the licensing fees would make or break his business, but noted that he can’t speak for every other brewer.
Another affected business is Cafe DaVinci in DeLand. Owner Dan Reed said they were able to reopen because they share the same physical address as Neighbors Artisan Taqueria, a takeout restaurant, but that it isn’t a sustainable business model.
“We need to be a bar and do bar things,” he said. “We will continue to do what we can until that day.”
Willacker had hoped the state would provide an extension or discount for licensing fees, considering the restrictions put in place on businesses like hers.
Still, she said she was frustrated with the state’s crackdown on bars, when restaurants have been allowed to operate with restrictions in place.
“The way the regulations stand right now, the state views sitting at a table with a beer and burger in front of me safer than me sitting at a table with only a beer sitting in front of me,” Willacker said. “From the hostess, to the server, to the kitchen staff, to the busser, I come in close contact with more people in a restaurant than I do going to a bar, ordering a beer, and having a seat. Bars and breweries can follow the same occupancy, social distancing and mask mandates that restaurants can.”
For more information, or to donate to the GoFundMe, click here.