Christie: Will Gov. Scott tear down Florida’s ‘liquor wall’?

Little package stores like The Beer & Liquor Store in western Lake Worth could be run out of buinsess by a controversial “liquor wall” bill if it’s not vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott today. (Kevin D. Thompson/The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: Pointing to concerns about preserving small-business jobs, Gov. Rick Scott late Wednesday vetoed the so called “liquor wall” law, which requires hard spirits to be sold in separate facilities from most retail goods. The veto was a victory for independent liquor-store owners, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Publix Super Markets, which fought the bill during the legislative session that ended May 8.

Would you be okay buying your Johnnie Walker Black whiskey in the same Target store as your Wheaties cereal?

How about the convenience of picking up your Don Julio tequila while you grab your diabetes medicine?

Does the thought of BOGO-ing your bourbon raise your, ahem, spirits?

Or does the thought of mixing hard liquor with family food shopping make you a bit queasy?

These questions will be settled for you today. Because today is the deadline for Gov. Rick Scott to sign a controversial “liquor wall” bill (SB 106) passed by the legislature that would a repeal a decades-old law requiring hard spirits to be sold in separate facilities from groceries and other goods.

It’s anyone guess whether Scott will sign, veto or let the measure become law without his signature; the bill is backed by retailers such as Target and Walmart.

Members of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which, along with Publix Super Markets and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, opposed the repeal, have stepped up the pro-veto movement since the House narrowly signed off of the measure — in a 58-57 vote — on April 26.

Meanwhile, Floridians For Fair Business Practices, which includes Walmart and Target, has urged to urge Scott to sign the bill.

The governor’s office as of last Friday had received 2,674 emails, 570 letters and 235 calls in opposition to the bill since lawmakers gave approval, according to Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone. Another 3,245 names were submitted via petitions collected at independent liquor stores.

The governor’s office during the same period had also received 434 phone calls, 320 emails and seven letters that voiced support for the bill.

PALM BEACH GARDENS — In recent years, supermarkets like Publix have been opening up separate liquor stores next to their grocery stores. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post).

Here’s the skinny: Opponents argue the change would hurt small liquor stores (also called “package stores”), eliminate jobs, result in a greater ability for minors to get liquor and lead to more impulse-buying of alcohol.

You can see that argument. After all, Walmart has a competitive edge because they buy in big quantities. How can a little mom-and-pop franchise of one or two stores liquor stores compete with them price-wise.

On the other side, proponents counter that the policy promotes a free market and provide more convenience to shoppers. They also dispute the argument about minors getting access to liquor, saying minors are more likely to get alcohol at home.

That may be true, also, as studies have shown that kids raid their parents liquor and medicine cabinets for alcohol and drugs, respectively.

Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who sponsored the bill, said the existing law is “antiquated.”

“The current alcohol separation law in the state of Florida is outdated and creates an uneven playing field for retailers,” Flores said in a statement earlier this month.

The measure got through the Senate in a 21-17 vote on March 23.

The issue has been heavily lobbied in the Capitol in recent years. If approved by Scott, the bill would affect the business models of retailers on both sides of the debate.

Along with the independent liquor stores and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, Publix has been involved because it operates stand-alone liquor stores in many of the same shopping centers as its grocery stores. Meanwhile, retailers such as Target, Walmart and Costco want to be able to sell liquor in the same stores where shoppers pick up groceries and other goods.

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