Florida vendors must follow strict rules for the return of unsold alcohol. These rules remain in place even if vendors find themselves with a surplus due to cancelled events.
The governor introduced a temporary exception to these rules in March 2020. By way of an Executive Order, he gave vendors permission to contact their distributors and ask them to accept returns of undamaged alcoholic beverages. However, this order only applies to events cancelled due to COVID-19, so what can you expect for returns after things return to a state of greater normalcy?
Returns of undamaged product
Any returns of alcoholic beverages must follow the rules set by the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT). Generally, these rules:
- Ban distributors from selling alcohol on consignment
- Prevent you from returning beverages because they are “overstocked or slow-moving”
- Require your distributors to keep records of all their returns
- Limit most returns to within 10 days of delivery
The rules don’t require you or your distributors to give the DABT a reason for the return if it’s made within the 10-day period after delivery. However, any returns made outside that timeframe need to fit one of the approved exceptions. If your distributor accepts a return made for one of the exceptions, it must keep a record of the qualifying event. These qualifying events include:
- It becomes illegal for anyone to sell the product
- The distributor releases a new version of the product and is willing to exchange your old version for an equal amount of the new version
- The product is discontinued
- You are a seasonal vendor who has stock on hand when you close
- You need to shutter your business
These rules do not obligate your distributor to accept the return. Instead, they simply limit your ability to request a return. It’s important for you to remember these limitations so you don’t get in trouble with the DABT and endanger your business.
It’s important to stay informed
As these rules should remind you, alcohol vendors face regulations at every turn. You need to comply with the standards set by the DABT and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). These vary with the scope of your business and can change with time.
It can be hard to dig into the rules, their details and any changes that come up. An attorney with deep knowledge of Florida’s alcoholic beverage law can help.