Retailers are firing the latest salvo in Florida’s booze war.
Walmart and Target, under the banner of “Floridians for Fair Business Practices,” sent an email Friday supporting bills (SB 804, HB 877) that would undo the requirement on retailers to have a separate store to sell spirits – that is, hard liquor.
As the Tampa Tribune previously reported, that means shoppers could buy bourbon, rum and tequila in the grocery aisles of their local supermarket. Current law allows only beer and wine sales.
Neither bill, however, has yet to receive a hearing in committee.
Christina Johnson, president of Tallahassee’s On 3 Public Relations, is representing the group. Kathy Mears, now House Speaker Will Weatherford’s chief of staff, was previously the agency’s vice president.
Friday’s email countered claims by liquor store chains and the alcohol-abuse prevention community that spirits’ presence in supermarkets will put it that much closer to minors.
“We shouldn’t be tearing down those walls,” said Lorena Streeter, spokeswoman for ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, which has more than 100 stores, all in Florida.
“Liquor shouldn’t be available next to the baby food and cereal aisles,” she said. “We want to limit access, and that’s why those walls are important.”
Johnson responds: “The liquor stores are worried about their bottom line but instead of admitting it, they are hiding behind claims that minors will have greater access to alcohol.
“Many retailers and grocers already sell beer and wine and have established rigorous training and security measures to prevent alcohol sales to minors.”
Thirty-four states now allow liquor sales without a separation requirement, she added. And research shows teens that drink booze get it from family members or other adults they know.
The Senate bill is in the Regulated Industries committee and the House version is in the Business and Professional Regulation subcommittee.