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State says no to lip balm, sunglasses in Publix liquor stores

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Sorry, Publix customers: You won’t be able to buy “lip balm, sunglasses, gift cards, balloons, mosquito repellant (or) sunscreen” in the supermarket chain’s liquor shops anytime soon.

The Lakeland-based chain had sought permission from the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to add those items to those its sells in its separate stores that offer hard liquor.

“It is self-evident that balloons are party-type supplies,” its request says, and gift cards, for example, “are a ubiquitous part of party attendance.”

Nope, state regulators said earlier this month.

Spokeswoman Maria Brous would only say that the company put in the request “based on customer requests we’ve received.”

State law limits what can be sold in such liquor shops to, among other things, nonalcoholic mixers, tobacco products and “party supplies.”

The division has further defined party supplies to include things like chips, dip, cold cuts, napkins and plates, corkscrews and ice.

Balloons and lip balm don’t rate, and Publix’s request was shot down. The state called Publix’s arguments that the items also qualify as party supplies “unpersuasive.”

In one section, the state’s response says that though “sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses … may reduce an individual’s exposure to the elements, their outdoor utility does not transform” them into party supplies.

No word yet if Publix plans an appeal.

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 jim@floridapolitics.com.

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