Spiritus Law combines a unique blend of professionals, including attorneys, government consultants, licensing assistants and paralegals located in Florida for the dedicated representation of alcohol industry clients. Our clients are drawn from all three tiers of the alcohol industry, and our experience is diverse, covering such areas as food and alcohol licensing, retailer expansion projects, hospitality industry mergers and acquisitions, movie theater alcohol licensing, corporate restructuring and regulatory disclosure filings, license renewal tracking, business compliance services and a vast array of trade practice and regulatory enforcement matters.

The Alcohol Industry Group provides comprehensive alcohol industry representation focused on industry innovation and expansion. We strive to be at the forefront of emerging industry trends and the refashioning of traditional concepts. Our professionals have helped shape alcoholic beverage regulations for over 35 years at the federal and state level. Our team includes:

  • A total of 4 lawyers and 11 licensing and regulatory professionals fully dedicating their practices to guiding alcohol industry clients through the various federal, state and local regulations governing the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale and advertising of alcoholic beverages.
  • Robert F. Lewis and Marbet Lewis have collectively worked with the alcohol industry for over 25 years. Rob formerly served as a special agent with the Florida Division of Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco (DABT) and later as an alcohol industry advocate and legal counsel. Their experience offers clients a unique perspective on enforcement and regulatory issues. Marbet works with manufacturers, importers and retailers on various alcohol licensing and permitting projects and assists with development of alcohol marketing, social media and alcohol regulatory compliance programs that promote long term business objectives.
  • The former Deputy Director of the DABT, Debra Pender, served as both the Interim Division Director and the Deputy Director of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco before her retirement from the agency in 2013. Debra is recognized as one of the architects behind many of the laws governing the retail sale of alcohol in Florida.

Practice Highlights – Far Reaching Capabilities

The Alcohol Industry Group focuses on providing complete food and alcohol licensing and regulatory services in the development of licensing structures and business operational guidelines for the manufacturing, importation, purchase and retail sale and service of alcohol beverages. Our services are comprehensive with attention to all aspects of business permitting and compliant operations for foreign and domestic manufacturers, importers and retailers including package stores, large box retailers, online retailers, restaurants, movie theaters with alcohol service, hotels, arenas and other entertainment, hospitality and food service clients.

  • Advising clients on food and alcohol licensing structure options and varying business operational models for the manufacturing, importation and sale and service of alcoholic beverages
  • Complete food and alcohol business permitting, including federal, state and local licensing and business permitting for food and/or alcohol service establishments
  • Alcohol related land use and zoning approval processes for new project development or alcohol service integration
  • Food service and alcohol regulatory compliance review and auditing including corporate disclosure requirements and operational control plans
  • Lease review and negotiations including landlord disclosures and percentage rent payment issues
  • Ancillary permitting for collateral hospitality industry amenities such as spas, health clubs and salons
  • Licensing with Division of Hotels & Restaurants, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture including plan review and inspection compliance
  • Review and analysis of inter-industry business relations including manufacturer and supplier alcohol marketing programs, alcohol brand sponsorships, product promotions and social media advertising campaigns
  • Management and tracking of multi-jurisdictional licensing projects including license transfers resulting from mergers and acquisitions and corporate restructuring
  • Defense against regulatory enforcement investigations and administrative and/or criminal allegations
  • Legislative lobbying and consulting with federal, state and local government agencies on development of new alcohol related statutes, rules, regulatory guidance and other regulations affecting business operations
  • Land use approvals and municipal code amendment processes including hours of sale extensions, special exemptions, variances, planned development standards, and alcohol use planning
  • Acquisition and sale of alcohol licenses including purchase agreement negotiations, due diligence and transaction closing
  • Counsel clients on alcohol trade practices and compliance issues at the federal, state, and local levels, social media and marketing guidelines, alcohol direct shipping, brand sponsorships, alcohol distributor/supplier relations, and the limitations on cooperative advertising and joint promotions with alcohol suppliers and distributor

Notable Client Projects & Experience

  • Assisted with management agreement review and negotiations, and alcohol license and business permit transfers during and following a major real estate investment group’s first entry into the U.S. hospitality market with the $125 million purchase of a South Beach hotel. The Group worked to complete all business and alcohol license transfers simultaneously with transaction closing to avoid interruption in alcohol and amenity services.
  • Assisted with multi-jurisdictional and multi-use licensing and permitting in Florida following various hotel acquisitions including working with the Department of Hotels & Restaurants, Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Resource Management, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, and the Federal Communications Commission for radio network frequency permitting.
  • Assisted with licensing and regulatory due diligence in preparation for a major cruise lines’ sale of assets for $3.025 billion dollars. The Group reviewed regulatory compliance issues and completed license filings prior to closing deadlines. Post-closing, the Group assisted with preparation of due diligence and licensing summaries for in-house regulatory counsel.
  • Assisted with analysis and review of promotional and marketing programs, complete business licensing and permitting for various sports team franchises, and arena food and beverage concessions, including drafting and negotiation of concession agreements and provided corporate and regulatory compliance guidance.
  • Drafted and analyzed management agreements for various third-party operators at luxury hotels and completed the licensing and permitting for the hotel’s multi-use amenities. The group’s members have also analyzed areas of liability concerns and provided operational regulatory compliance including review of social media advertising, manufacturer brand promotions, and special event sponsorships.
  • Provided regulatory guidance and due diligence of operating licenses and permits for various theater chain acquisition of assets including transactions over $240 million. The Group has transferred all alcohol licenses and operating permits simultaneously with closing to prevent interruption in alcohol service and provided post-closing compliance guidance.
  • Movie Theater Alcohol Licensing and Muvico Entertainment: Represented the national movie theater chain Muvico Entertainment as alcohol regulatory and licensing counsel in the sale of its theater chain and remained as licensing regulatory counsel for Buyer post-closing. Post-closing, the Group assisted Muvico Entertainment in disposition and sale of alcohol inventory and continued representation of Buyer for completion of business licensing and regulatory compliance issues. The alcohol industry team has extensive experience in movie theater licensing and industry mergers with its representation of various industry leaders, specifically in the areas of alcohol licensing, alcohol service integration and regulatory compliance guidance.
  • Robert and Marbet Lewis assisted with drafting and lobbying of changes to the City of Miami Beach Code of Ordinances to allow for alcohol sales at movie theaters and drafted proposed operational plan guidance for applicants.
  • Provided litigation defense against administrative enforcement and criminal allegations; managed corporate compliance regulatory filings; reviewed marketing and promotional programs for various nightclub and bar facilities.
  • Review of lease and purchase agreements for various ventures and new lounge/bar locations throughout Florida; review of marketing and promotional programs; review of on-site live entertainment liability and regulatory compliance issues.
  • Review and analysis of alcohol internet sales and direct to customer alcohol shipping issues; defense of administrative enforcement allegations; provided post-settlement regulatory compliance guidance.

Notable Industry Trends

Spiritus Law is committed to monitoring notable industry trends that may impact the ongoing business concerns of our clients. We have extensive experience in providing counsel to both traditional and non-traditional alcohol licensees and always welcome the opportunity to offer our advice regarding novel concepts. Examples include:

  • Movie Theaters and Alcohol Service: expansion of on premise venues and non-traditional restaurant food service models
  • Large Box Retailer Alcohol Integration: Leasing and Land Use Approvals, Liquor Segregation Issues, Purchasing Models, Online Sales, and Social Media Advertising
  • "Craft" To-Go: Permissibility of Growler Bars and Off-Premise Growler Packaging
  • Retailer internet alcohol sales, alcohol coupons and direct to consumer shipping regulations that impact the freedom and flexibility of e-commerce
  • Social media marketing of alcohol brands and drink specials and national promotion compliance
  • National alcohol purchasing models and incentives for promoting local alcohol brands
  • Exemptions to the alcohol three-tier system and the creation of special alcohol licenses for non-traditional alcohol retailers and multi-use facilities like shopping malls and department stores.
  • Alcohol industry consolidation and foreign investment in the retail tier: alcohol licensing and disclosure issues
  • Private labels: The retail tier is trying to explore its creative restrictions on private alcohol labels for themes concept

Industry Recognition

Spiritus Law is committed to monitoring notable industry trends that may impact the ongoing business concerns of our clients. We have extensive experience in providing counsel to both traditional and non-traditional alcohol licensees and always welcome the opportunity to offer our advice regarding novel concepts. Examples include:

  • Robert Lewis is recognized as a leading practitioner in alcohol law by Chambers USA, the respected guide for the legal profession (2014-17).
  • National Association of Concessionaires Show East Conference 2013: Marbet Lewis and Robert Lewis participate in a panel discussion on the revitalization of the movie-going experience with added dining and alcohol service options
  • Shopping Centers Today Magazine, March 2013: Article featuring Marbet Lewis discussing integration of alcohol uses for shopping center retail development tenants and legal concerns
  • Film Journal International, October 18, 2013: Movies and Mixology: Alcohol at the cinema brings licensing challenges: Feature article by Marbet Lewis and Robert Lewis relating to alcohol use approval obstacles for theater establishments, http://www.filmjournal.com/content/movies-and-mixology-alcohol-cinema-brings-licensing-challenges
  • NCSLA 2014: Control from a Difference Angle, panel discussion on special-license types and exemptions to the three tier system
  • NALCP 2015 Roundtable: Legal concerns for alcohol retail tenants building within new developments and shopping centers
  • Daily Business Review, Rising Stars Leadership Award to Marbet Lewis, May 2017.
  • Alcohol Industry Consolidation and Regulatory Concerns, Financier Worldwide, July 2016, By Marbet Lewis
  • Quoted: Obama Administration Eases Shipping, Cargo Transit Restrictions, by Johannes Walker at Cuba Standard.com, commentary by Marbet Lewis, October 2017.
  • With Whole Foods, Amazon Gets a Lot of Beer, and Headaches, Bloomberg Law, Antitrust & Trade Report, commentary by Marbet Lewis, July 2017.
  • Three-tier system think piece: Let’s steer away from post-Prohibition fears and reconsider our regulatory schemes, Craft Brewing Business, Marbet Lewis - author, July 2017.
  • 40 Under 40 awarded to Marbet Lewis, Outstanding Lawyers of South Florida (presented by Cystic Fibrosis Foundation), Fall 2017.
  • Pay to Play, by Marbet Lewis, Artisan Spirit, The Magazine for Craft Distillers and Their Fans, Fall 2017, https://issuu.com/artisanspiritmag/docs/artisanspirit_issue020_web/40?ff=true 

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