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Bill would allow booze in All Aboard Florida stations, trains

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Future riders of All Aboard Florida would be allowed a tipple as they wait for a train under legislation moving in the Legislature.

The already-approved Senate bill (SB 698) was passed by the House Friday on a 115-1 vote, with only Keystone Heights Republican Charles Van Zant opposed. The House added some changes, though, sending it back to the Senate.

The alcoholic-beverage omnibus bill permits booze to be sold on All Aboard Florida trains and in its transit stations. The idea is that restaurants, including brewpubs, that may lease space in stations also can apply for licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor.

On trains, however, “it is unlawful … to sell any liquor except in miniature bottles of not more than 2 ounces,” the bill says.

“The alcoholic beverages sold are for consumption on the licensed premises and may be consumed in all areas within the railroad transit station and on the passenger train.”

The controversial regional-rail system will connect Orlando to West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, and is scheduled to begin running next year.

Critics, particularly in the Treasure Coast, have questioned its effect on quality-of-life. The planned rail line goes through many communities concerned about noise and railroad-crossing safety.

Among its other provisions, the legislation also helps the state’s theme parks, which are volume users of beer kegs.

Instead of charging certain customers a deposit on each individual keg bought, distributors can set up an “inventory and reconciliation process” in which buyers would pay up once or twice a year based on what they used.

Theme parks use thousands of kegs a year, and they say having to keep track of each deposit has proved an administrative nightmare.

Still other language in the measure would make it easier for convenience stores that sell beer to refill growlers, the Florida legalized the half-gallon (64 ounces) size of growlers last year.

The bill mandates that the “taps or mechanisms used to refill growlers are not accessible to customers” and that employees who refill growlers be at least 18 years old.

Editor’s Note: This version corrects an earlier version that said the bill was heading to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected]

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