FORT MYERS — Distilleries all across Florida have signed a letter to Congress, asking for more help to keep people in business.
That includes two companies in our area, Wicked Dolphin and List Distillery. They’re hoping for tax relief and continued financial support, because there are several concerns for the future of the industry.
At List, they've had to completely change their business model in the past few months to survive.
“We turned our business from a distillery completely into a hand sanitizer business," said owner Thomas List.
List says it was a quick transition he had to make when alcohol sales plummeted near the end of March.
“The alcohol was already here, so what we had to do is to get legalized with the FDA, we got approved from the FDA," said List.
List said, the sanitizer has kept his team at work, but he said he signed the letter, along with 65 other distilleries, because he knows this is only temporary. Distilleries are only allowed to produce hand-sanitizer, thanks to an emergency declaration passed by President Trump.
“If the president happens to say, you know what? Things aren’t as bad, we’re going back to normal, that’s the end," said Philip McDaniel, the owner of St. Augustine Distillery.
McDaniel organized the effort to get more help for distilleries in Florida. He said, one of the biggest issues is a deadline at the end of this year. A tax cut, passed by Congress back in 2017, is about to expire.
“That excise tax is set to go back to the original $13.50 a gallon, and that would be a 400% increase in our taxes, which would be terrible, and probably come at the worst possible time for our businesses," said McDaniel.
The letter is calling for Congress to make that tax cut permanent, and to increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. It also asks Congress to consider suspending tariffs on liquor sold overseas.
List hopes those steps will pass to help his company stay afloat when his staff get back to producing alcohol.
“It would help us a lot in the end of the day, but let’s see if it passes on, and we only can pray for it," said List.