A longstanding alcohol law in Florida will remain in place after Gov. Rick Scott today vetoed the so-called “Whiskey and Wheaties” bill.
The measure would have removed a state law that mandates hard spirits be sold in separate stores than the majority of other retail goods. Supporters of the bill had claimed that this “liquor wall” provision was outdated: it was originally passed during the Depression era.
Those in favor of the bill included retail giants like Walmart, Target and Costco, who believed the existing law impeded free markets as well as consumer convenience.
Opponents of the change were independent alcohol retail stores, who feared the Big Box chains would badly damage their business should they be allowed to sell hard spirits. Also they pointed out that this would greatly increase access to alcohol for minors. Opponents included ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Publix Super Markets. (Publix operates alcohol retail stores as well.)
To reach Gov. Scott’s office, the bill passed through the state’s Legislature with much debate, controversy and narrow margins. Votes of approval were 21-17 in the Florida Senate, and 58-57 in the House.
The bill also mandated that bottles 6.8 ounces or less remain behind the checkout counter, no new licenses go to stores within 1,000 feet of schools, and that checkout clerks 18 years old or younger receive supervision by employees older than 18 when ringing out alcohol.
All for naught after the governor vetoed.
“We thank Governor Rick Scott for vetoing Senate Bill 106,” said ABC Fine Wine & Spirits CEO and president Charles Bailes, III, in a press release. “After hearing from numerous Floridians from across the Sunshine State, we believe he made his decision based on what is best for the state of Florida. We applaud Governor Scott for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors.”