MIA Brewing's Eddie Leon's Secret to Beating Florida's System: Start a Distribution Company

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Florida's three-tier alcohol distribution system prevents manufacturers from distributing their own product to retailers or customers, but Eddie Leon from Most Wanted Brewery--now known as MIA Brewing Company--found a work-around: invest in a new distribution company.

Under Florida's beer statute (section 563.022(14)(c) to be more specific), any manufacturer or affiliates "may financially assist a proposed distributor in acquiring ownership of the distributorship through participation in a limited partnership arrangement."

See also:

- Most Wanted Brewery's Eddie Leon Talks Brewery Startups

Leon cannot be the primary owner, which is left up to the general partner who should be, by law, concerned with acquiring ownership of the company. Also, the general partner cannot be involved in the brewery whatsoever. After eight years, the partnership must be severed and cannot be renewed through any other means.

The distributor will also have permanent rights to distribute MIA Brewing Company product.

To be perfectly clear, Most Wanted Beverages is being formed by a friend of Leon, and Leon is financially backing the company with a limited partnership. Prior to the move, Leon sought legal advice from a lawyer familiar with the beverage world and gave him the OK.

Think of it like a writer trying to get a book published, but instead of going through a publisher, the writer just forms their own company; or a musician who forms their own production company.

Anheuser-Busch did a similar thing when Eagle Distributing Company came online in the early 1980s. It also worked for Susan Miller of the Bold City Brewery in Jacksonville, too.

"It's an interesting little nugget that we found there and hopefully use it to our advantage when we start our brewery," Leon said. "It's a bit of distraction from the brewery but if I have a general partner then it's not a distraction."

It's not much of a secret since it's been on the books for years, but it's a nice little rule to help get your brewery off the ground. But starting a new company in a market of established competitors is not easy. With his partnership, Leon will help steer Most Wanted Beverages to acquire distributorship of Latin American craft beers not typically found in the United States.

The real advantage in manufacturers having limited partnership in a new distribution company is the ability to reach out directly to the customer. "We want to be the ones to meet the bar owners and become familiar with the market," Leon said.

And as the Most Wanted brand is shifted to the distribution, Leon had to change the name of his brewery to MIA Brewing Company. It turns out that there is a spirits company in Kansas called the High Plains Distillery that makes Most Wanted Vodka. Owner Seth Fox reportedly did not have a problem with Leon using the name for the brewery, but would not sign a "co-existence agreement," which would have given Leon some legal protection.

But the real issue lay in the fact that if Fox ended up selling off the brewery, the new owner could have trademark problem with the name of Leon's brewery, which is why he changed it.

The brewery itself is coming along. Leon developed the floor plans and submitted them to the city of Doral for review. And the equipment is also reportedly ready to be shipped. Leon is hoping for tentative opening date sometime in the fall.

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