(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Floridians for Fair Business Practices (FFBP) today released their top five reasons legislators should repeal the outdated alcohol separation law. The proposed measure, House Bill 107 by Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) and Senate Bill 468 by Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), seeks to bring Florida into the 21st century with common sense legislation. The bills are expected to be heard next week in House and Senate committees.
Reason #1: Modernization This outdated and inconvenient law requires liquor to be sold in a location separate from groceries and other goods. It’s an old regulation that has no bearing in today’s economy.
The Facts: This archaic law was established in 1935. Thirty states currently do not have a separation requirement.
What They Are Saying: “For retail stores, there is a clear concern that archaic regulations are a barrier to their consumers’ shopping choices. This straightforward repealer bill eliminates a misguided monopoly and guarantees consumers a real choice in the marketplace. In this case, Florida shoppers and shopkeepers should be able to decide what’s on the grocery shelf, not government,” said Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring).
Reason #2: Fairness Repealing the law will promote fair business practices and competition while reducing business costs for all grocers. This works both ways, too. Package liquor stores will be able to expand their grocery business as a result of the repeal.
The Facts: Liquor stores can, and do, co-exist in communities where alcohol is sold alongside beer, wine, and groceries. Arizona, California, and Iowa, all states without a separation law, are prime examples of this:
o In Arizona, Circle K—not a big box retail store—is the largest holder of liquor store licenses with 304 active licenses.
o Similarly, of the 13,000 licenses for the sale of beer, wine, and spirits in California, Walmart holds just 2 percent, as does Target, of active liquor licenses.
o In Iowa more than half of active licenses were held by convenience stores and private package stores, with big box retailers holding just 12 percent.
What They Are Saying: “A repeal of this law, passed just after the end of the Prohibition Era, makes sense. Rather than suppress business activity, government should explore ways to reduce barriers to competition and make it easier for willing consumers to transact business safely and legally,” said R Street Institute Florida Director Christian Camara (The Tampa Tribune, March 18, 2015).
Reason #3: Convenience The law is inconvenient to shoppers, costly to retailers, as well as arbitrary and unfair. Customers want the convenience of purchasing adult beverages as part of the overall shopping, and Florida has the strong measures in place to enforce underage drinking laws. It’s time to adopt common sense legislation.
The Facts: When surveyed 79.9% of Florida shoppers prefer buying spirits at the same location as their groceries and other goods (Voter Consumer Research Poll, Jan. 29—Feb. 2, 2014; 601 Registered Voters; MOE +/- 4.0%).
What They Are Saying: The coalition’s second in a series of consumer videos citing convenience and common sense as reasons why Florida legislators should repeal the outdated state law quoted shoppers as saying: “For me as a mom, it’s the most convenient way for me to shop.” Other remarks included “I enjoy the advantage of getting my liquor where I get my groceries. It’s that simple,” and “You’re selling liquor either way so why not put it together,” and finally “It’s just common sense.”
Reason #4: Responsibility Safeguards by major grocers currently exist to limit alcohol access to minors. For example, Florida grocers already selling beer and wine in store utilize many of the same safeguards in place as package liquor stores, including but not limited to, restrictive register technology, additional training of employees, and close monitoring.
The Facts: According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:
o Among underage current drinkers in 2013, approximately 71 percent report they did not pay for the alcohol they consumed.
o 61.1 percent received it from either an unrelated person over 21 or parents, guardians, or other adult family members.
o 16.4 percent received it from nonpaying underage drinkers, 7.8 percent took it from home, and 2.9 took it from some else’s home.
o Of those who did pay, 20.5 percent gave money to someone else to purchase it for them.
What They Are Saying: “Allowing spirits to be sold in the same aisle as beer and wine is actually an incredible deterrent issue. 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,” said Niceville Police Chief David Popwell.
“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,’” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri (Tampa Bay Times, February 16, 2015).
Reason #5: Security With modern surveillance systems in use in many large retailers and grocers, consumers and employees could shop and operate in a more monitored retail environment as opposed to a small isolated area with a separate entrance. Major grocers and retailers have asset protection teams at the ready. That begs the question: Do small package liquor stores?
The Facts: Large retailers work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement to prevent fraud, theft and other crimes from taking place in stores.
What They Are Saying: “I would rest assure that if somebody is going to commit a crime that the surveillance in a small mom and pop store was nowhere near the multimillion dollar systems that I am aware that most of our big box retailers have…So when that debate is posed to me personally, I don’t buy it. I think the big box retailers have far superior security standards in place from video to even undercover clothed personnel in their stores. I would bet on the side of the big box store and security,” said Senator Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) (Senate Regulated Industries Committee, March 18, 2015).
“During my 28 year career with Florida’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, our office conducted sting operations on all types of licensed liquor establishments. I have seen firsthand that grocers and retailers have numerous safeguards in place to keep minors from accessing alcohol in their stores,” said John Harris, former Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco Director and FFBP Coalition member.
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.” Video here.