House And Senate Advance Differing Alcohol Proposals

Feb 18, 2015

Rep. Steube (R-Sarasota) explaining his bill to the House Business and Professions subcommittee.
Credit The Florida Channel

Liquor sales could move under the same roof as the neighborhood grocery store under a measure making its way through the Florida House.  State lawmakers wrangled over the issue Wednesday.

Florida law requires stores selling liquor to put spirits like whiskey, rum, and vodka behind another storefront.  Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) says the state’s requirement for liquor stores to have their own exterior entrance is outdated.

“Since 1935 members,” Steube says, “since 1935, there has been a barrier of distilled spirits being sold in the big box stores—since 1935—there are 34 other states in our country that do not have a barrier.”

Steube’s bill passed its first committee, but many members warned they’d need to see changes before a floor vote. 

The proposal includes numerous tweaks in addition to allowing grocery stores to sell liquor under one roof.  In particular, Steube wants to do away with a two bottle per-person per-year purchase limit at craft distilleries. 

Like a similar bill in the Senate, Steube’s bill also contains provisions allowing large refillable bottles known as growlers, and it eases the establishment of tasting rooms for craft brewers. 

That bill, proposed by Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater), took its first steps Wednesday as well.  But Latvala cautions his bill is narrowly focused.

“I mean we’re not allowing hard liquor to be sold in grocery or a drug store or anything like that in this bill,” Latvala says.

Both measures have two remaining committee stops before they make it to floor votes.