Thanks to Rick Scott, You Won't Be Able to Buy Whiskey at Your Grocery After All

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Last month, the Florida state House of Representatives passed Senate bill SB106, which would allow grocers like Publix and retailers like Target to sell liquor in the same space as other items.

Dubbed the "Whiskey and Wheaties" bill, or the "Liquor Wall," the legislation would let consumers buy booze as easily as they buy cereal. In a law that remains from the post-Prohibition era, spirits in Florida must be sold only in dedicated liquor stores or in separate stores divided from a main pharmacy or grocer by a wall.

A few days ago, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill, keeping spirits off the shelves of retailers. In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Scott said:

“From the day I took office, I have been committed to eliminating regulations that impose duplicative and unnecessary requirements on Florida’s citizens and businesses.

“I carefully reviewed this bill and I have met with stakeholders on both sides. I listened closely to what they had to say and I understand that both positions have merit.

“Nevertheless, I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida. I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

Though consumers would likely have benefited from the repeal of the "Liquor Wall," many independent liquor retailers were up in arms about what the impact would be on their businesses if major chains like Target could sell vodka alongside laundry detergent and bananas.

The initial vote was won by a small margin and would have made Florida the 28th state to allow the sale of liquor alongside wine and beer, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Interestingly, small mom and pop liquor stores weren’t the only outspoken entities, with big box chains divided on the bill.

Costco, Target, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods were said to have pushed for the bill. Publix, which has dedicated liquor outlets adjacent to many of its stores, was against it.

The Distilled Spirits Council supported the bill with vice president Jay Hibbard calling the current law “outdated, discriminatory, and unnecessary in a modern marketplace.”

Whether the law is dead or will be revised at a later date remains to be seen. But even if Scott didn't kill SB106, the rollout would be slow and it’s likely your favorite local big box wouldn’t carry that Pappy Van Winkle you’re seeking, with 2018 being the earliest hard spirits would start showing up on shelves. Additional safeguards, like checking IDs, would also be put into place. Finally, any store within 1,000 feet of a school would not be allowed to sell liquor.

The veto of "Whiskey and Wheaties" does have one upside: The growing Florida craft spirits industry will likely fare better with small independent liquor retailers who tend to purchase from smaller distributors.

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