Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Julio Fuentes attempted to undermine the reputation of the company my family and thousands of employees have worked hard to build for more than 80 years.
I wish to set the record straight about safety for minors and our role in making the shopping experience convenient.
Let me be clear: We support convenience for any customer 21 or older who wants to purchase alcohol legally, whether from a store licensed to sell liquor or through a retailer’s secure delivery service. What we will never support, and neither should legislators, is any effort that makes it more convenient for minors to obtain liquor illegally.
This is a well-established Florida law that requires distilled spirits to be sold in a separate location from groceries. There has never been an outcry from the public about it because customers do not make a big deal out of walking a few extra feet to get from one store to the one that sells liquor next door. The outcry would understandably come from parents if the Legislature gets rid of a law that protects minors.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mr. Fuentes’ words are noticeably similar to the talking points Wal-Mart uses year after year to support the repeal of a safety law in our state. Same playbook, same basic play, with a slight route adjustment to account for technology influencing the marketplace and the profits of a global company.
Regarding fairness, it is entirely unfair to parents, law enforcement and all our communities to do away with a law that prevents minors from having easy access to liquor through stores where they are free to roam and touch anything on the shelves unchecked. The current law protects against minors wandering into a liquor aisle unnoticed, with no one close enough to stop them from stealing or drinking from a bottle.
Based on the troubling details in a recent Bloomberg Business report titled, “Wal-Mart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy,” which I encourage everyone to read, Mr. Fuentes and other supporters of the repeal have a far bigger issue to worry about than this annual attempt at removing a law that has proven to keep minors safe.
Charles Bailes III is chair and CEO of ABC Fine Wine & Spirits.