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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 4 years ago

Booze rules loosen up

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Government regulations sometimes smother the alcoholic beverage industry, but one recent rule change is a breath of life for local rum entrepreneur Troy Roberts.

Government regulations sometimes smother the alcoholic beverage industry, but one recent rule change is a breath of life for local rum entrepreneur Troy Roberts.

The change, which recently went into effect statewide, allows craft distillers to sell products, on a limited basis, in a retail setting. That activity had been banned for years, and any alterations were difficult, given how influential the alcohol distributor and liquor store lobby is in Tallahassee. But State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, helped pass a law this year that relaxed the rules.

Roberts, founder of Sarasota-based Drum Circle Distilling, makers of Siesta Key Rum, pounced on the changes. He opened a gift shop/tasting room inside the facility, and has begun to sell products and give tours. He held a grand opening of the retail operation Nov. 2 attended by more than 400 people.

Around 200 people, Roberts adds, took a guided how-it's-made tour. About two-thirds of that group, estimates Roberts, had never tried Drum Circle's award-winning rum before. Many of those customers left with two bottles — the maximum allowed in one purchase under the new regulations.

“The thing about our rum is that it's really good, it's really different,” Roberts tells Coffee Talk. “But we need to get people to try it.”

The tasting room will be open, starting in mid-November, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. Roberts will give guided tours on those days, too. One-to-one sales are certainly good, says Roberts, but the best part of the deregulation is he can now market directly to consumers.

A onetime sales executive with Compuware, Roberts founded Drum Circle Distilling in 2007. Siesta Key Rum is available for sale in several retail outlets, including Total Wine and More stores in 10 states, from Arizona to Washington.

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