-Rep. Greg Steube’s Measure Includes Repeal of the Alcohol Separation Language-

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – The Floridians for Fair Business Practices (FFBP) coalition today applauded the members of the Florida House of Representatives Business and Professions subcommittee for passing Rep. Greg Steube’s (R-Sarasota) House Bill 107, which would repeal an archaic law that stifles Florida businesses. The repeal would give independent liquor stores and retailers the option to sell spirits in the same aisle as beer and wine. Members of the coalition who testified cited free market, safety, and consumer convenience as compelling reasons for the committee to support the repeal of the prohibition-era law.

“Indeed it is government’s responsibility to provide and ensure public safety, but we do not believe that business who already sell alcoholic beverages, and abide by public safety rules, should be required to incur the enormous expense of essentially erecting a standalone store just to sell other alcoholic beverages,” said Christian Camara, Florida Director, R Street Institute.

“AFP supports in its current form. We would humbly submit that it decreases regulations and gets government out of the way. It’s their responsibility to maintain businesses and keep safety at the forefront. It is also their responsibility to adapt their model in the current time,” state Chris Hudson, Florida Director of Americans for Prosperity.

“We believe it’s time to start adopting common sense legislation regarding this law. Beverage laws aren’t keeping up with realties of the marketplace. They no longer serve a purpose, or the purpose has been lost. All vendors do a good job at selling, but no one has a trademark on being more responsible,” said Richard E. Turner, General Counsel and Vice President of Government Relations for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

An FFBP coalition representative from Walmart, Monesia Brown stated, “We work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement to prevent fraud, theft and other crimes from taking place in our stores. As you know, Florida law requires that we meet certain requirements in order to hold a quota license to sell beer, wine and spirits. The reality is our compliance rates are best in class among the industry,” concluded Brown, the Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart.

In addition, Floridians for Fair Business Practices conducted interviews with Florida retail customers who spoke to the issue of safety. Comments included “I would feel a lot more safe if I bought my liquor in a grocery store … More well-lit building, more security cameras, plenty of staff around … It’s about safety.

Safety is the most important thing.” Customers were not paid or incentivized in their comments. The FFBP video may be viewed here.

“Allowing spirits to be sold in the same aisle as beer and wine is actually an incredible deterrent issue,” said Niceville Police Chief David Popwell. “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,” Chief Popwell concluded.

Further, according to a recent Tampa Bay Times article, “Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said he isn’t convinced by the public safety argument. He said 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.’” (Tampa Bay Times, February 16, 2015)

Research supports the fact that minors will not have additional access to alcohol if the law is repealed.

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, citing a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) study, reports that Arizona and California – states allowing the sale of wine and spirits in grocery stores – have seen declines in underage consumption and binge drinking over the last 5 years at 17 percent and 12 percent respectively.

In fact, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, of the majority of underage drinkers (ages 12-20), 60 percent report getting their alcohol from adults such as parents, guardians, other family members or unrelated adults (Figure 3.8). Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported that 40 percent of students who reported past-month consumption said that they usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them (page 19).

House Bill 499 by Rep. John Wood (R-Winter Haven) and Senate Bill 468 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) was filed in January. Similar language appears in Rep. Greg Steube’s (R-Sarasota) House Bill 107 that was passed in today’s House Business and Professions subcommittee. The bills, if passed, would repeal a 1935 separation law and allow spirits to be sold in the same aisle as beer and wine, should independent liquor stores and retailers choose that option.

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About Floridians for Fair Business Practices
Floridians for Fair Business Practices is a coalition of retailers and business groups whose purpose is to identify rules and regulations, which prohibit the growth and expansion of Florida business. For additional information, please go to www.FairBizinFlorida.com.