With legislators passing the ‘the whiskey to Wheaties’ bill, Floridians are now a step closer to purchasing hard liquor from local grocery stores, such as Publix or Walmart. This means supermarkets will not only have beer and wine on their shelves but also hard liquor—currently sold in separate liquor stores.
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, sponsored the SB 106 bill, stating this to be more relevant and convenient for Floridian consumers than the “archaic” Prohibition-era law. The result—legislators voted 21-17 for the bill.
There was some opposition, however. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, tried hard to prevent the bill from advancing. Lawmakers also debated if this bill would make liquor easily accessible to minors. There was also the concern about the age of clerks who would check out the purchased distilled spirits.
The Senate bill, when signed into law, would permit retailers to add liquor to just a quarter of the stores in phases over five years. Gas stations with10,000 square feet or more of retail space which have been selling beer and wine, could obtain the required license under this bill. Wholesale retailers like Sam's Club, Costco, among others, also qualify.
Retailers like Publix has been lobby against this legislation each time the bill unsuccessfully surfaced. The reason for this, Publix explains, is the company’s significant investment in liquor stores—adjacent to some of its own grocery stores. ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and other independently-owned liquor stores claim that the bill would hurt the small, local businesses.
On the other hand, Walmart and Target lobbyists are of the opinion that this law will be favorable for consumers.
A similar bill has narrowly advanced in the Florida House (HB 81) in a House commerce committee, this Wednesday. It is yet to be seen if the bill will make it to the House floor vote.