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Retailers, business owners reaffirm call to repeal Florida “wall of alcohol separation”

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A coalition of Florida retailers and business owners are reaffirming “unwavering support” for the effort to repeal the state’s Prohibition-era alcohol separation law.

In an announcement Friday, Floridians for Fair Business Practices (FFBP) doubled down on its support for “free market and pro-business values” while blasting opponents, who they claim are using “false arguments on competition and scare tactics in alcohol access to minors.”

Florida is one of the 20 states with a separation law between liquor stores and other retailers – a law that has been on the books since 1935. Other states allow “commingling” of products, offering convenience to customers and less regulation for businesses.

For the 2016 Legislative Session is House Bill 245, filed by Republican state Rep. Carlos Trujillo of Miami, and Senate Bill 420 from Fort Myers Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

The measure would repeal Florida’s alcohol separation law, in effect ”tearing down the wall” separating beer, wine, and groceries with alcohol and other spirits.

The bill will be heard next week by the House Business and Professions Subcommittee.

FFBP says opponents of the measure are claiming unfair business practices, warning that removing the separation would hamper the free market.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” the FFBP statement says. They cite a recent story from ABC Action News in Tampa, where ABC Fine Wine & Spirits – a member of the ‘Florida Businesses Unite’ coalition of liquor stores – now supports removing walls for the sale of alcohol.

“It is disingenuous to say the least when you talk about keeping a wall up in protecting a Prohibition-era law, yet on the other hand, allow doorstep delivery of alcohol where there are no walls in order to profit from modern 21st-century laws,” said FFBP representative Christina Johnson. “Given these facts, the opposition seems less concerned about minor access and more concerned about suppressing the free market to guard their bottom line.”

FFBP, which represents thousands of Florida-based businesses, employers, and employees, believe removing the alcohol separation law will keep the state competitive in the marketplace, providing a level playing field for all Florida businesses.

Among on board with the change are state Reps. Carlos Trujillo, Jason Brodeur, Greg Stuebe, and John Wood.

“Florida’s economy continues to thrive and small businesses are doing well,” Trujillo, in Miami Republican, says in a prepared statement. “Let’s repeal this law and get government out of the way so businesses can operate more efficiently and continue to strengthen our economy.”

Sanford Republican Brodeur says that repealing the “outdated law” tears down barriers hindering business growth and expansion.

“Florida should live up to our reputation as a pro-business state and pass this legislation in 2016,” he says.

Steube, a Sarasota Republican, see his support for the issue as simple as not having grocers build and maintain two separate locations.

“I would think that it would be a heck of a lot easier to manage your product … not having to hire two separate employee staffs to manage the big store and your separate store that has certain spirits,” he added.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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