breaking news

Accused BallenIsles stabber indicted on murder charges

Florida House keeps chipping away at ‘Liquor Wall’

A heavily lobbied measure intended to knock down a decades-old prohibition on selling liquor in grocery and large retail stores narrowly continued to advance in the House on Tuesday.

The Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee voted 7-6 to support an amended proposal (HB 81) that would end a Depression-era law requiring liquor stores and bars to be separated from groceries and other retail goods, an issue commonly referred to as the “liquor wall.”

RELATED: More Florida Legislature coverage

The contentious bill - sought by Wal-Mart and Target and opposed by Publix and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits - needs to make it through one more committee in the House and awaits a floor vote in the Senate (SB 106).

House sponsor Bryan Avila, R-Hialeah, rejected claims by opponents that his legislation, three years in the making, will increase access to liquor by minors and harm existing businesses.

“While shopping at Publix is a pleasure, certainly their argument is not,” Avila said. “The only reason the antiquated law is being opposed is to maintain the status quo.”

Before the vote, Avila proposed an amendment that would sort alcohol licenses into two categories, one for businesses that seek to remain stand-alone for liquor, the other imposing fees - based on county population - for those that want to sell liquor in the same stores as other goods.

Avila said he’s also considering additional changes for when the proposal goes to the Commerce Committee. That could include requiring cashiers to be 18 or older when liquor is purchased and increasing penalties on businesses that are found selling to minors.

He also indicated he is open to proposals in the Senate bill that would require small bottles, 6.8 ounces or less, to be displayed only behind the counter and phasing in the law over a four-year period.

Still, the House bill, which appeared to stall a week ago, remains controversial for many.

“The losers are clearly going to be the small businesses,” said Rep. Kathleen Peters, a Treasure Island Republican who voted against the bill.

Thomas Culligan, representing Publix, said in opposing the measure that the supermarket chain may be able to support a delayed implementation. Publix has opened stand-alone liquor stores in many shopping centers that also include grocery stores.

“We’ve invested so much in the stores that we have built out in the state,” Culligan said. “We also have a number of leases that we’d like to see expire if this does happen.”

Pat McClellan, owner of the Flora-Bama lounge and package store in the Panhandle, said the change would result in a greater ability for minors to get their hands on liquor and would lead to more impulse-buying of alcohol.

“It ain’t right to put the apple schnapps next to the apple sauce,” McClellan said.

Proponents contend abolishing the “outdated” law is necessary to provide more convenience to shoppers, reduce regulations and save money for businesses.

Joseph Salzverg, a lobbyist for Target, said the change would allow the Minnesota-based company to meet customers’ needs and expectations.

“The way Target structures their business model is a racetrack type of shopping,” Salzverg said. “That’s why we don’t currently operate bifurcated stores in the state of Florida.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

FBI investigated Jeff Sessions for possible perjury: reports
FBI investigated Jeff Sessions for possible perjury: reports

The FBI investigated U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for possible perjury last year amid allegations that he misled lawmakers about his contacts with Russians ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to multiple reports. The investigation into Sessions started before the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with...
Users abandon Facebook after Cambridge Analytica findings
Users abandon Facebook after Cambridge Analytica findings

Debates over privacy have plagued Facebook for years.  But the news that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, was able to gain access to private data through the social network has sparked an unusually strong reaction among its users.  The hashtag #DeleteFacebook appeared...
How a witness for Mueller and a Republican donor influenced the White House for Gulf rulers
How a witness for Mueller and a Republican donor influenced the White House for Gulf rulers

A cooperating witness in the special counsel investigation worked for more than a year to turn a top Trump fundraiser into an instrument of influence at the White House for the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to interviews and previously undisclosed documents.  Hundreds of pages of correspondence between the two...
Ex-chief of CIA suggests Putin may have compromising information on Trump
Ex-chief of CIA suggests Putin may have compromising information on Trump

John O. Brennan, the former director of the CIA, said Wednesday that he thought Russia may have some kind of compromising information on President Donald Trump, setting off furious speculation about whether the former spy chief was basing that assertion on inside information.  In an appearance Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,&rdquo...
CBS says it will air ‘60 Minutes’ interview with porn star Stormy Daniels this weekend
CBS says it will air ‘60 Minutes’ interview with porn star Stormy Daniels this weekend

Stormy Daniels will appear on national television for a full-length interview for the first time since sordid scandal involving her and President Donald Trump burst into public view.  The interview, with host Anderson Cooper, was taped earlier this month. Speculation has swirled that Trump's lawyers might seek an injunction to prevent its broadcast...
More Stories