Florida "Wall of Separation" Finally on the Way Out?


As covered on DrinksReform, Florida failed to repeal its law requiring a separate retailing location for distilled spirits sales in grocery stores. But after the failed repeal, the law was challenged in front of an administrative judge, who according to WCTV, has now ruled against the law:

You might soon see whiskey next to the Wheaties in big box stores thanks to an administrative law judge’s ruling, but advocates for traditional liquor stores say the ruling is a far cry from putting an end to the debate over where hard liquor can be sold.

For at least the past five years, dozens of lobbyists have worked lawmakers to allow the sale of hard alcohol in big box stores instead of from a separate storefront. Last year, it passed by one vote, but was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott.

Trying a new strategy, Walmart and Target turned to an administrative law judge, successfully challenging a rule that defined items customarily sold in restaurants…

The state could also choose to appeal. In that case, the ruling would be put on hold until it gets a second look from the First District Court of Appeals.

We reached out to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for comment, but did not receive a response.

Read more here.

The Battle Over Interstate Wine Shipping Continues to Spread


Amidst recent crackdowns on interstate wine shipments from retailers—not to mention the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear the case of Tennessee Wine v. Byrd, which could have profound implications for wine shipping—Florida has become the latest legal battleground on the issue. As reported by Wine-Searcher:

Midwestern attorney Robert Epstein is on a mission to open up as many states as possible to interstate shipping.

"We have pending cases in Missouri, Illinois and Michigan, which is now on appeal," one of the Indianapolis-based founders of Epstein, Cohen, Seif & Flora shares. He has next set his sights on Florida, where he has requested a declaratory statement from the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), requesting that the state permit out-of-state retailers to ship wine into Florida…

Epstein's plan – if successful – is likely to broaden the availability in both Florida, and other markets, to older, unusual wines and those found through the auction market. Lesser-expensive, commercial wines are not likely to be a big factor in future Florida purchases, unlike the less-expensive, over-the-state line purchases that have influenced the Chicago and Maine markets, where taxes are much lower in both neighboring Indiana and New Hampshire

Read more here.

Also of note in the interstate wine shipping wars, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in favor of a wine store owner challenging Illinois’ ban on wine shipments from out-of-state retailers.

A New Challenge to Florida's Wall of Separation Law


Early last year, Florida lawmakers tried to repeal an antiquated state law requiring any grocery or chain store wishing to sell distilled spirits to do so in a separate retail location away from other products. The so-called “Whiskey and Wheaties” reform bill passed the state legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. R Street testified in favor of the reform bill and wrote several op-eds on the issue (here and here). Large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have now initiated an administrative challenge in an effort to get the law overturned:

Target and Walmart are heading to court to get an administrative law judge to give them what Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t: The ability to sell whiskey and Wheaties in the same store. 

The big-box retailers late Monday filed an administrative challenge against the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages And Tobacco (ABT).

At issue: The state’s obscure, 24-year-old “Restaurant Rule,” which restricts eateries and other businesses that have ‘consumption on premises’ liquor licenses from selling anything other than items “customarily sold in a restaurant.” The plaintiffs say the rule is “not supported by logic or necessary facts.”

For over eight decades, Florida law — enacted after Prohibition — has required retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store, though beer and wine can be sold in grocery aisles…

Read the rest here.

Florida's Pensacola Beach Allows Open Containers of Booze


More communities and municipalities are relaxing their open container laws and allowing residents to enjoy their libations in the open air (a trend that R Street has voiced support for). In the latest example, local officials voted against extending an ordinance that prohibited open containers on Florida's Pensacola Beach:

Despite [protests from some local business owners], commissioners voted 3 to 2 against extending the ordinance.

Opponents of extending the ordinance said it infringed on visitors' rights to enjoy public beach areas and that law enforcement already has the authority to break up fights, police shoplifting and address other criminal behaviors.

The ordinance will sunset on June 1...

More here.

When the State Gives Lemons

The magazine Beverage Master has a nice rundown of liquor regulations and restrictions in various states around the country:

"With the passing of the 21st amendment, the prohibition of alcohol in the United States was officially repealed. Each state was given the power to regulate and control the distribution of alcohol within their borders. Today, every state handles the sales of alcohol a little differently, including setting limitations on what craft distilleries can do in their gift shops and tasting rooms. Some states are more “craft friendly” than others by allowing sampling, cocktail and bottle sales, direct distribution, paid tours, and other profitable options. However, every state imposes some restrictions. When the state imposes restrictions, how can distillers work within the laws to increase their bottom line?.."

Read the state-by-state summaries here: http://beverage-master.com/article/when-the-state-gives-lemons/

Gov. Rick Scott vetoes 'liquor wall' bill

It had appeared that Florida was on the brink of a major reform victory in the realm of alcohol retailing, but efforts to abolish the state's "liquor wall"--which required hard liquor to be sold in separate stores from other products--were suddenly halted when Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the legislation. Gray Rohrer reports for the Orlando Sentinel:

"Florida’s so-called 'liquor wall' won’t be coming down after all.

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill late Wednesday that would have removed a Prohibition-era law requiring liquor to be sold in separate stores from groceries and other retail items.

Twenty-nine other states have similar laws that allow spirits in the grocery aisles, but the bill gained stiff opposition from social conservatives concerned it would lead to increased alcohol consumption, alcoholism and underage drinking.

Yet it wasn’t those concerns that swayed Scott. It was the pleas of independent liquor store owners and workers that led to his veto.

'I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida,' Scott wrote in his veto letter. 'I was a small business owner, and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.'..."

Read the rest here: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/political-pulse/os-liquor-wall-bill-gov-scott-20170524-story.html

R Street's Christian Cámara had previously written and testified about this legislation, as covered hereherehere, and here.

Cheers to promoting free-market principles in liquor sale

R Street's Christian Cámara wrote an op-ed for the Sun-Sentinel on the Florida legislature's recent move to loosen rules that restrict what stores liquor can be sold in:

The Florida Legislature last week acted to join the majority of states in modernizing its alcohol sales laws. Senate Bill 106, which currently awaits Gov. Rick Scott‘s signature, repeals an unnecessary and costly regulation that prevented grocery stores and other businesses who hold liquor licenses and already sell beer and wine inside of their stores from being able to sell distilled spirits inside their stores also.

This commonsense legislation removes government from decisions businesses make about how they operate, while granting brick-and-mortar establishments the freedom to find innovative ways to compete with the convenience of a growing online marketplace.

Many who read about the legislation — often referred to in the press as the “Whiskey and Wheaties” bill — never make it past the headline to understand the bill was less about liquor sales and more about allowing the free market into an industry that long has been dominated by government protectionism. Simply put, in keeping with Prohibition-era restrictions, the government has kept its thumb on the scale to assist one business model over another — a practice that is inherently unfair to both businesses and consumers...

Read Cámara's whole op-ed here: http://www.rstreet.org/op-ed/cheers-to-promoting-free-market-principles-in-liquor-sale/

The legislation now heads to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's desk. The governor is facing intense pressure from lobbyists hoping for a veto, as DrinksReform.org covered here

R Street and Cámara have previously written and testified about this legislation, as covered here, here, and here.


Florida liquor sales bill in hands of Scott

The Florida legislature recently voted to allow grocery stores and other retail outlets to sell hard liquor alongside beer and wine, tearing down Florida's so-called "liquor wall." Now, the Florida governor is facing an intense lobbying effort encouraging him to veto the legislation:

"Florida liquor store owners are pleading with Gov. Rick Scott not to allow big chain stores to sell liquor.

Shoppers say it would make their life more convenient, but liquor stores fear they'll go out of business.

Steve Brgouthi has owned a North Fort Myers liquor store for four years. “I can't compete with Wal-Mart.  I can't compete with that big store,” Brgouthi said.

That's exactly what he'll have to do if the governor signs SB 106 that allows chain stores to sell hard liquor. “But us, we’re going to go out of business,” Brgouthi predicted.

Stores like Target support the bill. Now liquor store owners are lobbying the governor to veto the bill passed by the House and Senate..." 

Read more at: http://www.nbc-2.com/story/35296700/liquor-sales-bill-in-hands-of-scott

For previous DrinksReform.org coverage of Florida's liquor wall, see here.


R Street applauds passage of bill bringing alcohol freedom to Florida


The Florida House just passed a bill that would allow grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets in the state to start selling liquor right alongside beer, wine, and other goods. The bill already passed the state Senate, so it is now headed straight to the governor's desk. R Street applauded this development in a press release:

The walls separating Florida’s supermarkets and big box stores from their liquor-store annexes could soon be coming down, as state lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow beer and wine retailers throughout the state to add liquor to their shelves.

Under S.B 106, passed today by the Florida House, the addition of hard alcohol to the shelves of everyone from big box stores to larger gas stations will occur in phases over the next five years. Stores still would be prohibited to sell liquor within 1,000 feet of schools and required to keep “mini” bottles stored behind the counter.

“It is important to understand that this initiative is being driven by consumer demand,” noted Christian R. Cámara, R Street’s Southeast region director. “At the end of the day, this is really about treating adults as adults.” ...

Read the rest here: http://www.rstreet.org/news-release/r-street-applauds-passage-of-bill-bringing-alcohol-freedom-to-florida/

R Street's Christian Cámara has also previously testified and written about Florida's alcohol separation law here and here.

Senators Hoist Bills On Beer Glasses, Distilleries

CBSMiami reports:

"Legislation that would allow distributors to give away free branded beer glasses and a measure that would lift a bottle limit on gin, vodka and other distilled liquors sold at Florida craft distilleries cleared a Senate committee on Monday.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 for a bill (SB 1040) by Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, that would let beer distributors give away up to five cases of 24 branded glasses each year for each beer brand to bars, restaurants and other retailers....

In another 6-1 vote, the Commerce and Tourism Committee backed a measure (SB 166) by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, that would expand the ability of Florida craft distilleries to sell vodka, rum and other distilled liquors.

It would allow unlimited sales of distilled liquor at the distilleries, as opposed to a two-bottle per brand, per person limit now imposed..."

Read more at: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/04/03/senators-hoist-bills-on-beer-glasses-distilleries/