Bill would allow liquor sales at grocery stores

Supporters say change looks unlikely this year


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – You can grab a beer at the grocery store but have to go elsewhere for a bottle of liquor. Some lawmakers say that needs to change.

A proposed repealer law looks to break down walls that the state mandates grocery stores to have between their stores and liquor stores.

"So if you walk into Publix you can get wine and beer, but then you got to walk outside and go into a separate entrance for liquor," said Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. "To me it just doesn't make sense. It's harder on consumers that have to go through two lines."

Steube's proposal would eliminate the separate entrance requirement currently on the books. Former Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco Director John Harris said there's no longer any need to separate the apple schnapps from the apple sauce.

"A law that passed immediately after prohibition, it's been in effect for about 100 years," said Harris. "It probably was a very good law when it was made based on the model of the liquor stores. That's changed today."

With more than half of the legislative session already gone, the bills have yet to be placed on an agenda for any committee.

Florida's Independent Spirit Association has spoken out against the proposal. The group said allowing liquor sales in grocery stores or Walmart increases access to minors. Steube shrugs off the claim.

"They could walk in the liquor store right now but they still have to get carded and ID'd in order to purchase alcohol. So access to minors, in my opinion, isn't going to change at all," said Steube.

ABC Liquors has come out in opposition of the bill. Walmart is for it, saying the business model operates just fine in the other states that allow it.

Supporters said that change looks unlikely this year, but they're hoping for a possible last-minute push to get the law repealed.