Disney Decision to Expand Alcohol Sales Could Impact Legislative Session

by | Dec 21, 2016

Forget “Whiskey and Wheaties.” The debate set to rage in Florida’s capitol over alcohol sales in retail locations has taken a turn: now it’s “Mickey and Mojitos.” The Happiest Place on Earth™ is changing its business model to allow alcohol sales inside the Magic Kingdom. Despite this change to Disney’s policy, the company’s flagship theme park will keep its reputation as “family friendly.”

But the move by Disney could have a broader impact on this year’s legislative session as lawmakers consider whether or not to repeal a law preventing grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Publix to expand alcohol sales inside their existing locations. The 80-year old law, dating back to the Prohibition-era, blocks retail stores from selling liquor and distilled spirits on their premises. In the past, one of the primary arguments against repealing the law has been based on the idea that kids – especially teens – could more easily access liquor and drink illegally.

It’s fascinating that Disney – one of Florida’s crown jewels – rejects that kind of thinking. Perhaps that’s because in the 35 other states that have repealed similar laws, there is no evidence to support any uptick in illegal teen drinking as a result of the repeal. Disney announced plans last week to expand wine and beer sales to four restaurants inside the Magic Kingdom, and for years has sold distilled spirits and liquor at its other parks – including bottled alcohol on sale at specific locations around Epcot. From the Magic Kingdom’s inception until 2012, alcohol sales had been banned at the park. For the past four years, the Be Our Guest restaurant, located in the “Fantasyland” area, was the only restaurant allowed to sell beer or wine to patrons.

Disney says there’s reason for the change in policy: consumer demand.

For years, the company has fought tooth-and-nail to protect its business model and reputation as the most family-friendly entertainment destination in the world. There is no way the company would make a change like this if there existed a shred of evidence suggesting the company had decided to prioritize profits over public safety. That’s why Disney’s decision effectively guts one of the common arguments against repealing the law.

 

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