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Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco joins call to re-examine alcohol separation laws

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco thinks selling spirits alongside beer and wine is not an issue of minors having increased access to alcohol, but one of properly training clerks and other employees.

On Thursday, Nocco joined other law enforcement officials, businesses, and organizations who have spoken out in the effort to repeal Florida’s Prohibition-era laws separating liquor and other grocery and retail sales.

Floridians for Fair Business Practices coalition and its supporters have worked to promote their facts of the alcohol-separation law repeal, specifically on issues of safety and minor access.

Nocco issued this statement:

“Our agency monitors stores that sell alcohol to ensure minors are not obtaining it illegally. Through our operations, we have seen that the issue isn’t whether spirits are being sold next to beer or wine, but that clerks are properly checking identification to ensure the purchaser is of age to buy such products. I have not seen crime data that suggests a rise or fall if spirits are sold in a large store that sells numerous products. This is not a minor access issue. What matters is that a store train its members to properly check identification.”

Niceville Police Chief David Popwell agreed: “Allowing spirits to be sold in the same aisle as beer and wine is actually an incredible deterrent issue. In larger retail stores, there is much more security — more cashiers, more managers, more loss prevention officers to monitor activities. An underage child is not going to be stealing liquor in this type of environment. Minors are going to find an out-of-the-way liquor store, with one person behind the counter and only a few people working or shopping there, instead of a grocery store, drugstore or convenience store where a minor is likely to be seen by someone they know within their local community.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, in a recent Tampa Bay Times article, said he isn’t convinced by the public safety argument, but he doesn’t think minors will have any easier access to alcohol with whiskey and vodka in the grocery aisles.

“It’s not a public safety issue,” he said.

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