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Gov. Scott Faces Wednesday Deadline On Liquor Wall Measure

Barrel Room at the St. Augustine Distillery
Barrel Room at the St. Augustine Distillery
Barrel Room at the St. Augustine Distillery
Credit Nick Evans
Barrel Room at the St. Augustine Distillery

This week could mark the beginning of the end for a long-running restriction on liquor sales.  Florida Governor Rick Scott has until Wednesday to take action on a measure allowing stores to sell groceries and liquor under the same roof.

Lawmakers have spent the past four years filing bills to remove the so-called liquor wall—state restrictions barring liquor sales in grocery stores. 

Now a bill is on the governor’s desk, but even if he signs it Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami) says the changes will be phased in over four years.

“Grocery stores—grocery chain stores would only be able to convert a quarter of their stores for each of the following four years.”

Starting in 2018, retailers can begin selling liquor in one quarter of their stores each year.

Big box retailers like Target and Walmart pushed for the changes over the objection of homegrown companies like Publix.  Flores acknowledges the move is a shift, but she believes supporters and opponents can still be successful.

“There’s room in the market for all of these to be able to flourish,” Flores says.  “In fact, again, looking at the majority of states that don’t have the separation, the number of liquor stores has either stayed the same or even increased.”

Laws vary from state to state, but several others allow liquor sales in grocery stores.

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