State Sen. Bill Galvano Wednesday filed an amendment to this year’s “whiskey and Wheaties” legislation to “slow its implementation so it doesn’t come into the marketplace all at once.”
The bill (SB 106), filed for four years running, would repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor.
Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.
Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to be Senate President in 2018-20, first filed a version of the bill in 2014. His amendment would phase in the integration of booze into general retail space over a couple of years after the bill’s passage.
“It also puts smaller spirits bottles (i.e., ‘miniatures’) behind a counter, and addresses the size of the store,” he said in an interview, so it would not apply to “7-Elevens and things of that nature.”
Critics raised concerns that the bill as filed would allow hard liquor sales at gas station convenience stores, for example.
Pure-play liquor retailers, such as ABC Fine Wines & Spirits and independent operators, have said the bill is being pushed by big retailers looking to expand their market reach.
Wal-mart, Target and others say tearing down the wall of separation between liquor and other goods is simply a “pro-consumer” move toward added convenience.
The measure, carried this year by Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores, cleared its first committee and is next set to be heard by the Rules Committee this Thursday.
If it clears there, it will be ready to be debated on the floor after the Legislature convenes March 7. A House companion has not yet had a hearing.
If passed, Florida would be the 30th state to allows the sale of hard liquor in general retail space, advocates say.
8:30 p.m. update: Two more amendments were filed later Wednesday by state Sens. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, and Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican.
The Latvala strike-all chiefly would grant local control over tearing down the liquor wall of separation, allowing retailers to sell spirits in the same space as other items if the area in which they’re located OKs it “by a municipal or county ordinance.”
The Simpson proposal, also a strike-all, also has a local control provision and adds that a “vendor licensed pursuant to 27 CFR 478.41(b) may not sell liquor on its premises.” That’s the federal rule governing firearms dealers.