Friday, March 24, 2017

Florida Senate approves bill to let grocery outlets sell hard liquor in stores

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TALLAHASSEE — Floridians are one step closer to being able to buy whiskey, rum or vodka in a grocery store.

Legislators passed the "whiskey to Wheaties" bill in the Florida Senate Thursday which will allow grocery stores like Publix or Walmart to sell hard liquor on the shelves next to beer and wine instead of in a separate liquor store with its own entrance. 
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who sponsored the bill in the Senate (SB106), said that the current Prohibition-era law is "archaic" and called for passing legislation that is more relevant and convenient for consumers in Florida. 
Senators voted 21-17 in favor of the bill. 
"This was put in well over 80 years ago when Al Capone was still roaming through the streets," Flores said during a special order discussion when the Senate was in session Tuesday. "The question is, 'Has this outlived its purpose?' The answer we came up with in committee is: 'Yes.'"
The Senate bill, if put into law, would allow a retailer to add liquor to only a quarter of the stores it has in Florida in phases over five years. It would also prohibit stores from selling liquor within 1,000 feet of schools and require that miniature liquor bottles of 6.8 ounces or less, be stored and sold from behind a counter. 
Gas stations that have 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and are already selling beer and wine could obtain a hard liquor license under the Senate bill. Wholesale retailers like Sam's Club and Costco are also included. 
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, made a last-ditch effort to stop the bill from moving forward, sparking a heated debate on the floor of the Senate. Lawmakers debated issues like whether this bill would make it easier for children to drink underage or what would be the age of clerks who could check out customers buying distilled spirits.
"I don't understand the rush or the importance of doing this," Latvala said. "People are calling us about health care and criminal justice issues and spillage at Lake Okeechobee. In the 15 years of being here, I've never had calls from people who tell me we need to make the purchase of liquor more convenient for me." 
Latvala said big box stores who are pushing for the legislation, like Walmart and Target, would have the upper hand over independently owned businesses. 
"When you're the major tenant in a shopping center, you have the right to control your competition," Latvala said. "If one of these big box stores comes into a shopping center and (they) don't want to have the mom and pop liquor store that's been there for 20 years anymore at the end of their lease, they won't be there." 
The bill, which has surfaced many times over the last six years without success, has pitted retailers like Publix against other big box stores like Walmart and Target. Publix has lobbied against the legislation, saying the company has already invested heavily in its own separate liquor store operation which can be found adjacent to some of its grocery stores. ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and other independently owned liquor stores say if the bill becomes law, it would hurt local businesses. 
But Walmart and Target lobbyists say it's good for consumers. 
"This is something our customers want," said Jason Unger, a lobbyist for Target, which has 122 stores in Florida. "Customers have told us that they'd rather be able to buy liquor on our shelves instead of having to make a second stop." 
Unger said that claims that this law would hurt small businesses are unfounded. 
"In California, the largest state in the country, we (Target) have less than two percent of all liquor licenses out there," Unger said. "Competition is good for everyone. This is a good pro-business piece of legislation." 
A similar bill in the Florida House (HB 81) narrowly advanced in a House commerce committee Wednesday. It's unclear if the bill will go to a floor vote in the House. 
Both the House and Senate bills would require clerks to be 18 or older to checkout patrons purchasing alcohol. 
"This bill was never meant to be so dramatic," Flores said in closing.
Here's a breakdown of the Florida Senate's 21-17 vote to allow hard liquor to be sold at grocery stores and big box retailers:
Republicans (14): Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island; Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg; Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; Rene Garcia, R-Miami; Travis Hutson, R-Elkton; Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples; Keith Perry, R-Gainesville; David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, Greg Steube, R-Sarasota; Dana Young, R-Tampa; Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
Democrats (7): Lauren Book, D-Plantation; Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando; Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens; Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville; Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton; Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami; Linda Stewart, D-Orlando
Republicans (9): Frank Artiles, R-Miami; Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala; Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach; Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze; George Gainer, R-Panama City; Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne; Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby; Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland
Democrats (8): Daphne Campbell, D-Miami; Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth; Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale; Bill Montford, D-Tampa; Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach; Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg; Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale; Victor Torres, D-Orlando.
Not voting: (2) Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange

States that sell wine-beer-liquor in grocery stores
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mass., Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio*, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin* 
* Local ordinances/variations 
Source:; state laws
Florida Senate approves bill to let grocery outlets sell hard liquor in stores 03/23/17 [Last modified: Friday, March 24, 2017 10:10am] 
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© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

Monday, March 20, 2017

Whiskey and Wheaties Bill - Update

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House panel approves liquor sales in grocery stores

Shoppers may soon be able to pick up a bottle of Jack just down the aisle from the potato chips and breakfast cereals.
At first glance, repealing the dusty Depression-era law that mandates liquor must be sold in a separate store, away from groceries, seems like an easy fix.
But on Tuesday, the House Government Operations and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee approved the bill by a razor-thin 7-6 vote, with and on both sides of the issue.
That reflects the vote in the bill’s previous House committee hearing, when it passed 8-7.
Despite the superficial simplicity, the so-called “whiskey and Wheaties” bill is one of the most heavily lobbied in the legislative session.
This is the fourth year in a row the Legislature has tried to repeal the law, which dates to the early 1930s and was originally passed in order to slow the reintroduction of alcohol into Florida in the wake of the end of Prohibition.
But those who want to keep the law in place argue that liquor and supermarket stores have created their business models under the current regulations and that they stand to lose out by repealing the law.
, a towering force in Florida politics owing to its employment numbers and heavy political contributions, is foremost among these critics, as many of its supermarkets already feature separate liquor stores and reconfiguring to integrate liquor into the supermarket would be expensive, though the bill does not require businesses to make the change.
Independent liquor stores have also lined up against the bill, saying that allowing liquor sales in big stores would be the death knell of their businesses.
The forces pushing for change are just as powerful — big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, which contend that the current system is an inconvenience to customers.
The people and industries lobbying against the bill say it would increase alcohol consumption by minors. But the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah, disputes that.
“Thirty other states already allow spirits to be sold in grocery stores and there’s no evidence to support a rash in underage drinking,” he said. “The data has shown that most underage drinkers obtain alcohol from friends or family members who have purchased it legally.”
Nor did Avila find persuasive the argument that independent liquor stores would be crushed by liquor sales in big box stores.
“In several of the states that do not have a separation, such as California, Arizona, Nebraska and Missouri, big box stores hold less than 10 percent of liquor licenses,” he said.
But owners of independent liquor stores across Florida made the trip to Tallahassee on Tuesday to explain that security at their stores means less kids getting less booze.
“We take pride in making sure that my neighbors’ kids are not served in my store,” said George Knightly, who owns five liquor stores in the Orlando area. “They will get served over and over again in a grocery store because those cashiers don’t know them. It means nothing to them selling alcohol to a minor. It means nothing.”
The bill would create two kinds of liquor licenses. A Type A license would include traditional liquor stores that don’t sell groceries. Type B, which would be slightly more expensive, with the increase in cost varying depending on county population, would be for supermarkets and big box stores.
The bill has one more committee before going to the House floor for a vote. A similar bill has cleared all of its committees in the Senate but has not yet been voted on by the full body.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Update Regarding the Bill that Proposes Taking Down The Wall Between Supermarket and Liquor Store

Is House splitting the difference 

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Is House splitting the difference over the over the whiskey & Wheaties bill?

After the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill nearly whiffed in the House, a new twist was filed Monday evening.
A proposed amendment on the bill (HB 81) 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.
Those getting a Type B license also must pay “an additional amount” on top of the annual license fee according to a sliding scale based on population.
The bill—sponsored by Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican—is set to be heard Tuesday by the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Avila also offered the latest amendment.
For four years, various lawmakers have filed a proposal to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.
While the Senate version (SB 106) cleared all its review panels and is ready for the floor, this year’s House bill stumbled out of its first committee on an 8-7 vote, with its own chairman voting against it.
It was then temporarily postponed in the appropriations subcommittee earlier this month when it became clear it didn’t have enough votes to move forward.
Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.
Alcoholic beverage retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent owners, have complained the bill is being pushed by the big retailers looking to expand their market reach. Publix Super Markets also opposes the bill, saying it’s invested in the separate liquor store model.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Keep a lookout for underage drinking. It is not worth a strike on your license!!!

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The Bottom Line

Department of Business and Professional Regulation

March 10, 2017

Dear Friends,
The pleasant weather of spring has descended on the Sunshine State, giving everyone a reason to head outside and enjoy all that Florida has to offer. The change in temperature also means the start of Spring Break for our state’s youth and our continued focus to curb underage drinking in the state.
With Spring Break activities taking place all month, we at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation are partnering with the Florida Department of Children and Families to encourage parents to educate their teens about the dangers of underage drinking.
Alongside Florida law enforcement, DBPR’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco is committed to upholding the state’s alcohol laws during this year’s Spring Break to better protect Floridians and tourists.
If you see any underage alcohol abuse or illegal sales to minors and would like to help, report the violations by calling (866) 540-7837. For more information on what to say to prepare the teenagers in your life, please visit or
Responsibility is a two-way street, so be informed and help end underage drinking.
Ken Lawson’s Signature
Matilde Miller
Interim Secretary
Department of Business and
Professional Regulation

2601 Blair Stone Road
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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