Two Republican state lawmakers submitted new bills today to remove Florida’s “wall of separation” between grocery and liquor stores.
House Bill 499, filed by state Rep. John Wood, and Senate Bill 468 from state Sen. Denise Grimsley seeks to repeal Florida’s “outdated and inconvenient” separation law. Both bills will be considered in the 2015 legislative session that starts March 3.
Applauding the bill is Floridians for Fair Business Practices, a coalition of retailers and businesses that have been calling for the state to modernize its Prohibition-era law, on the books since 1935. FFBP believes the regulation restricts Floridians access to alcoholic beverages by requiring liquor sales in a separate location from groceries and other goods.
Florida is among the 20 states with separation laws.
Other states have the ability to ‘co-mingle’ product, says a statement from the FFBP, offering customer “convenience and less regulation.”
Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, believes that removing the “antiquated” separation law not only supports a free market, but also allows improved security in alcohol sales.
“There is no denying that there is a higher crime rate among separate liquor stores,” he said. “If passed, this law would enable establishments who want to sell spirits in the same aisle as beer and wine, where even greater security measures are in place.”
Grimsley added that the measure, which she calls a “straightforward repealer” bill, would give consumers a real choice.
“For retail stores,” the Sebring Republican said, “there is a clear concern that archaic regulations are a barrier to their consumers’ shopping choices. … In this case, Florida shoppers and shopkeepers should be able to decide what’s on the grocery shelf, not government.”
FFBP coalition spokesperson Christina Johnson praised the bill as “pro-business, common sense legislation” that would level the playing field between independent package stores and major retailers statewide.
“Tearing down the proverbial wall between spirits and beer and wine will allow more customer convenience and in an atmosphere with even more securities in place to address minor access concerns,” she said.