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Fight over “whiskey and Wheaties” returns to Capitol

“Sure I eat what I advertise. Sure, I eat Wheaties for breakfast. A good bowl of Wheaties with bourbon can’t be beat.” – Hall of Fame pro-baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean. 

Supporters are hoping the third time’s the charm in repealing the state’s Prohibition-era law that requires retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store from groceries and other wares.

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, filed this year’s bill (HB 245) on Friday.

For three years now, various lawmakers have carried legislation – nicknamed “whiskey and Wheaties” bills – pushed by Walmart, Target and other big-box retailers that would ease regulations on the sale of alcohol.

The bill for the 2016 Legislative Session would repeal the requirement of a stand-alone liquor shop, allowing retailers to sell distilled spirits in their main stores and allow minors to continue to work at such integrated outlets.

Trujillo now will be point man in an effort that has antagonized other big chains, including Publix, and the alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention community.

Even a watered-down proposal that would have just allowed a door in the wall between a main store and an attached liquor store failed last session.

Proponents say it’s about customer convenience. They formed a group called Floridians for Fair Business Practices to influence public and lawmakers’ opinion.

“We still believe this prohibition is an archaic law that needs to be brought into the 21st century,” spokeswoman Christina Johnson told last month.

Opponents have countered that it’s a grab for market share that will hurt traditional pure-play liquor stores, especially “mom ‘n’ pop” shops. The ABC Fine Wine and Spirits chain has consistently opposed the measure.

Publix fought it because it goes against their business model of having separate liquor stores and supermarkets. And leaders in the prevention community have said mixing booze in with other goods could increase teens’ access to alcohol.

Trujillo also dares to tread where a line of other lawmakers have failed.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to become Senate President in 2018-20, first sponsored legislation two years ago but couldn’t get it over the finish line.

And this year, state Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and state Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, shared the heavy lifting, to no avail.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at

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