Ever run out of Johnny Walker Black in the middle of the night? Darn, and all the liquor stores are closed? Well our friendly legislature has a solution. It is found in House Bill 107. If passed, and it has the backing of the liquor industry which speaks a lot for the bill’s chances, you will be able to walk into any 24-hour convenience store and fill your bar with that missing Black.
We all know that familiar sign “We check IDs on anyone under 30.” Liquor stores are pretty good at checking. Very few underage kids get through. Again, we have all heard the story about the 21-year buying for a bunch of teenagers impatiently waiting outside for the purchase to be completed. Doesn’t happen very often — but it does happen.
But try a convenience store at 3 a.m. I am not disparaging the convenience store clerk, but at 3 a.m., with only one clerk on duty, how easy would it be for a kid, or for that matter anyone, to slip a flask-size bottle under a jacket, pay for a Twinkie and make it out of the store. It’s not like the whole store is nothing but bottles of booze. They probably will be shelved between the soda and the bottled water.
I may be wrong, but I don’t think the store clerk training is the same at a convenience store and at a major supermarket. I have been shopping at the same Publix for years and seem to know half the staff. They all seem well trained and want to keep their jobs.
The grocery store/convenience store approval is one sentence in a massive bill, Section 565.04. The current law requires a separate store for them to sell “hard liquor.” The main thrust of the bill is to ease up on breweries being able to open for longer hours. State Rep. Bill Galvano, a bill sponsor, stated that the current law requires more regulation and is an inconvenience to the buying public.
Law enforcement basically is against the bill. Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson said in a recent joint statement: “I haven’t heard anyone complaining about finding a convenient place to buy liquor, but I have heard that in states where this legislation has already passed, law enforcement is now having to combat rising incidents of theft and illicit underage drinking inside the stores themselves.”
Sheriffs in Duval and Orange counties have joined Sheriff Adkinson in his opposition to the bill. They believe that the bill would allow minors to more easily steal liquor.
Publix spokesperson Maria Brous stated, “Our business model has followed current Florida law where there must be a separate entrance for liquor stores.”
House Bill 107 is a controversial proposed law. Naturally, it has the strong backing of the liquor industry with law enforcement taking the opposite position. Between the two positions I go with law enforcement. This is one bill that can slip through and win approval if for no other reason that few, very few, will even notice that one sentence change.
I strongly recommend that as a registered voter and someone concerned about the safety of the community you contact your legislators and strongly recommend that they say “no” to this bill.
We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Send your comments to (fax number) 305-662-6980 or email to Kenneth.Bluh@ColumbusCL.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.