It is not rare to find businesses that offer a free drink to customers as part of their strategy to make them happy. For example, beauty salons, top-notch boutiques, and other companies may offer clients a glass of champagne or wine. 

Is it illegal to serve free drinks without an alcoholic beverage license in Florida? Read on to find out.  

Do I Need a Florida Liquor License to Serve Free Drinks? – As Provided by Law  

Florida Statutes §562.12 (1) expressly states that “it is unlawful for any person to sell alcoholic beverages without a license, and it is unlawful for any licensee to sell alcoholic beverages except as permitted by her or his license, or to sell such beverages in any manner except that permitted by her or his license.” 

The legal definition of the terms “sale” and “sell” is what determines whether a business is unlawfully distributing alcohol to customers in Florida.  

Florida Statutes §561.01 (9) specifies that these terms refer to “any transfer of an alcoholic beverage for a consideration, any gift of an alcoholic beverage in connection with, or as a part of, a transfer of property other than an alcoholic beverage for a consideration, or the serving of an alcoholic beverage by a club licensed under the Beverage Law.” 

Additionally, Florida case law shows that courts have used a broader approach to interpret the definition of these terms.  

A good example is the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal in the 1987 case Dept. of Bus. Reg., Div. of Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco v. Cost Plus Imports of Tampa Bay, Inc. At the time, the court ruled that furnishing any alcohol in connection with a limousine rental could be considered a sale according to the meaning provided by Florida Statutes §561.01. 

Do I Need a Florida Liquor License to Serve Free Drinks? – The Verdict 

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of alcoholic beverages must apply for proper licensing. The issuance of liquor licenses in Florida is controlled by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT), a branch of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). 

DABT’s rules explicitly state that “any payment for services or products which provides the access to the alcoholic beverage is not considered complimentary (costing nothing) and thus is considered a sale of alcoholic beverages and requires a license.” 

For example, if the customer of a beauty salon pays for a certain service and is offered a free glass of wine, state regulations consider it a sale that requires proper licensure. However, if the same customer enters the beauty salon and does not pay for any goods or services, serving a glass of wine will not likely be considered a sale.  

Any business seeking to serve free drinks to paying customers in Florida must consult an expert licensing attorney to obtain a proper alcohol beverage license. 

Do You Need a Liquor License in Florida? – Immediately Seek Expert Legal Guidance 

A well-versed legal advisor in Florida licensing law, Attorney Romy B. Jurado willingly wants to help ensure full business compliance and protect your interests. Contact us by calling (305) 921-0976 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a consultation.