73ºF

'Liquor wall' bill lined up in Senate

Controversial measure allows liquor to be sold in grocery, retail stores

photo

Senators on Tuesday set the stage for a vote on a controversial measure that would allow liquor to be sold in grocery and retail stores.

The proposal (SB 106) would end a Depression-era law requiring liquor stores to be separate from groceries and other retail goods, an issue commonly referred to as the "liquor wall."

The Senate took up the bill during a floor session and prepared it procedurally for a vote Thursday.

"This bill repeals an antiquated law that forced retailers to treat the sale of one type of alcohol different than the sale of another type of alcohol," Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who sponsored the proposal, said.

The issue has led to repeated legislative battles in recent years, pitting Walmart and Target, which want to stock liquor on shelves near other goods, against Publix and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, which have stand-alone liquor stores as part of their corporate blueprints.

To make the proposal more palatable, Flores has made changes that would stagger the repeal of the law over several years; prohibit new package stores from being licensed within 1,000 feet of schools; and require that small bottles, 6.8 ounces or less, be displayed only behind the counter.

The proposal also would prohibit liquor licenses from being issued to gas stations that are not linked with locations providing more than 10,000 square-feet of retail space.

A similar House measure (HB 81) has been narrowly approved by two subcommittees and will go before the Commerce Committee on Wednesday.