2014 Legislative Session Mixed-bag: Imbibers win and lose

in Uncategorized by

For once let’s start with a loser: the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association. The organization pushed for unnecessary, anti-free market red tape on a growing Florida industry. While other states are passing bills to make it easier for craft brewers to expand their businesses, the FBWA made it their mission to add regulations where none are needed. While doing so opened the beverage titans to a flood of public backlash, little doubt they’d take the same tack again to protect precious and lucrative turf.

Meanwhile, in the winner’s circle is Scott Dick, who represents ABC Fine Wine and Spirits. While ABC’s stance was also to limit retailer’s ability to easily sell distilled spirits, at least the group had crafted a rationale for doing so.

You are likely familiar with this issue, even if you were unaware that it was a contentious one. Florida supermarkets and other retailers may sell wine and beer within their main store but must operate a separate space to sell alcohols such as whiskey or gin. The law requiring such separation was written in 1935, making it “archaic” in the minds of many, including Sen. Bill Galvano.

Galvano sponsored SB 804 to repeal the separation requirement, but withdrew the measure because he didn’t have the votes. Because Dick and his allies had run a fantastic ground game and convinced members of the merits of keeping distilled spirits out of arms reach.

Charles Bailes, head of ABC, explained to the TC Palm that their position was one that kept higher potency alcohols further out of reach from teens who would stick out a lot more in a liquor store than in an aisle at Walmart.

“The best checkout system in the world isn’t going to keep liquor out of the hands of kids,” Bailes said. “They’re stealing it and even drinking it in the store.”

House companion bill HB 877 never got traction. Agree or disagree with ABC, there is little contesting they had a winning game.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.