If you listen to the lobbyists for ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and other independent liquor retailers, it would be the bacchanal end-of-the-world if the state’s Prohibition-era law that requires retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store from groceries and other wares was repealed.
For three years now, various lawmakers have carried legislation — nicknamed “whiskey and Wheaties” bills — pushed by Wal-Mart, Target and other big-box retailers that would ease regulations on the sale of alcohol.
The bill for the 2016 Legislative Session would repeal the requirement of a stand-alone liquor shop, allowing retailers to sell distilled spirits in their main stores and allow minors to continue to work at such integrated outlets.
“When a minor enters a liquor store, they immediately raise a red flag. In fact, a large number of Florida liquor stores do not allow anyone under the age of 21 inside the store,” says Rory Eggers, the executive director of Florida Independent Spirits Association. “However, a teenager is a welcomed customer inside grocery stores and big box stores, and typically make up a large percentage of their employee base.”
Continues Eggers, “(Independent stores) employ thousands of workers in Florida who support their families by working the front counter, stocking shelves, watching the door, and checking IDs so that kids can’t get their hands on their products.”
Even if you agree with Eggers and Co. — that society needs a wall to keep those meddlin’ kids from getting their hands on the hooch — isn’t that argument undercut by ABC’s new app-based delivery service?
The Boston-based Drizly alcohol delivery company has partnered with ABC to launch on-demand delivery of beer, wine and spirits to consumer’s doors through the Drizly app or website, reports Jerome Stockfish of the Tampa Tribune.
In other words, there’s no longer a wall between the whiskey and the Wheaties; those families ‘working the front counter, watching the door, and checking IDs’ are no longer part of the equation. Now it’s just Wi-Fi & whiskey.
Justin Robinson, Drizly’s co-founder, insists that ABC will still process the entire transaction (as opposed to grocery delivery services which process their own transaction and pass the grocery costs on to the stores).
“They (ABC staff) are trained on how to check IDs. They have ID scanners, in addition. Those combined make it a pretty safe transaction,” Robinson is reported as saying.
But that’s not the point.
ABC’s argument in Tallahassee, with apologies to A Few Good Men’s Nathan Jessup, is that we need its clerks on that wall.
But if that wall is being partially torn down by a third-party system delivering alcohol door-to-door, why can’t Target stock the Tanqueray without having to build a separate store?