There is continued momentum for the repeal and replacement of the decades old prohibition liquor law that restricts grocery and large store retailers from selling liquor products within their stores as opposed to a separate adjacent store that must be separated by a wall from the retail store.
Last week we wrote about Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah, who sponsored a bill to amend the law. The proposed bill would create dual “liquor package store licenses,” with “Type A” licenses going to stores keeping a wall of separation between booze and other retail items, and “Type B” licenses going to those who sell liquor in the same general space as other goods.
On Thursday, the Florida Senate voted on Senate Bill 106, allowing grocery stores, big box retailers and other stores to sell liquor in the same space as other products in a 21-17 vote. This issue has been a hot topic for advocacy groups against and the retailers who are lobbying for the change. The retailers hope to grow their sales by making alcohol products more accessible to consumers as they shop for other products but that is the main issue of contention for those opposing the bill.
Sen. Daphne Campbell said she voted no because it might make liquor more accessible to teenagers. “High school kids are going to go on breaks for lunch and be able to buy alcohol. They could die while driving back to school or be arrested for DUI,” said Campbell.
The bill does outline restrictions such as prohibiting stores from selling liquor within 1,000 feet of schools. Mini bottles, like the ones available on airplanes, would have to be stored and sold behind a counter. It also states that individuals selling liquor must be 18 or older.
According to US News, if it’s signed into law, the phase-in period would be gradual. The earliest that stores such as Target and Walmart could add liquor to their shelves would be 2018. Jason Unger, a lobbyist representing Target, said population growth would be a factor in deciding which stores could receive licenses. One new license is available for every 7,500 residents that move into a county. If new licenses were not available, a business would have to wait for one to become open.
Should the proposed bills in the House and Senate become law, Florida would become the 28th state to allow the sale of liquor alongside wine and beer according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
We will continue to update as we track the progress of the bills and regulations.
By: Oren Cytrynbaum