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Opinions mixed on adding liquor to grocery stores

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Hard alcohol could be getting a spot next to beer and wine at the grocery store, but the proposal is getting mixed reviews in the Capitol.

Keeping liquor away from the lettuce in the grocery aisle has been on the books for 80 years.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, has a proposal that would change that.

"It's been something that's been in place since 1935," Steube said. "Obviously we should go back and see if it's still necessary."

Currently, places like convenience stores have a separate door to go into the main store, where shoppers can buy beer, and the liquor store, where shoppers can buy other hard alcohol. 

But the Senate isn't as ready to tear the wall down. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, filed an amendment that would still keep the liquor store separate from other stores. 

"My opposition to the bill as a whole was that I don't want to have liquor store hard liquor on the shelves in the regular store," Stargel said. "I think they need to be a separate liquor store. I think this bill accomplishes that. It is still a separate liquor store, it just gives the convenience of a door."

Her proposal would allow a direct door from a grocery or convenience store to the liquor store instead of having to go outside.

"They watered it down," Steube said. "I mean, basically what they did was allow a door in the wall, but staff's interpretation of it is that it wouldn't allow you to go in there and purchase it after you've been in the main store."

Grocery giant Publix has strongly opposed mixing liquor and groceries. They run separate stores for each. Independent liquor stores are also worried repealing the current law could cut into their sales.

The Senate's version of the bill has two more stops before it could get a vote on the Senate floor.