Florida Bill Would Allow Liquor Sales Inside Grocery Stores, Drug Stores, Walmarts

Want to pick up a bag of baby carrots, a carton of Hefty bags, and a fifth of vodka all in one quick trip?

Well, lawmakers are currently debating whether to allow grocery and drug stores to sell hard liquor alongside other wares.

See also: Beer Growlers May Finally Be Legalized in Florida Next Year

Currently, grocery and drug stores are allowed to sell liquor, but only in a separate part of their store with its own dedicated entrance. We've all made a booze run at the attached liquor store of a Publix or Walgreens like that.

Well, that could change.

Lawmakers have been trying for years to find a compromise to the law that stifle the state's growing craft beer industry. Florida law mandates a three-tiered alcohol distribution system that requires breweries sell to wholesalers who then sell to stores which then sell to consumers. That, of course, means that craft breweries are not allowed to sell beer directly to consumers except through a technical tourism law legal loophole that allows "tap rooms."

HB 107 is mostly concerned with correcting that. It would allow breweries to sell directly to customers. It would also officially legalize tap rooms and would allow breweries to sell their suds in 62-ounce growlers.

But the language of the law would also allow for stores like Walgreens, Publix, Target, and Walmart to sell liquor within their stores.

The bill passed its first committee 7-4 today but not without growing controversy.

Three county sheriffs openly opposed the law earlier this week.

"This proposal raises a lot of alarm bells in my mind," Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson said in a joint statement on Monday. "I haven't heard anyone complaining about finding a convenient place to buy liquor, but I have heard that in states where this legislation has already passed, law enforcement is now having to combat rising incidents of theft and illicit underage drinking inside the stores themselves."

The sheriffs in Duval and Orange counties joined Adkinson in his opposition. They believe that it would allow minors to more easily steal liquor.

Publix, the state's largest grocery chain, also opposed the bill.

"Publix opposes HB 107," said Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous in a statement. "Our business model has followed current Florida law where there must be a separate entrance for liquor stores."

The bill's supporter, Rep. Greg Steube (the guy behind a recent medical marijuana bill), meanwhile, points to free-market ideology.

In comparison to many other state's, Florida's liquor sale laws are pretty liberal. Sales are allowed on Sunday, municipalities can chose to allow to keep liquor stores open until 3 a.m., and the state has no hand in distribution.

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Kyle Munzenrieder