Florida Lawmakers Booze-A-Palooza

by | Feb 27, 2018

 

Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature is continuing to advance a number of alcohol-related bills that might make the average conservative voter sit up and take notice. The bills currently cruising through the Florida House and Senate will change Florida law in several dramatic ways, ranging from making it easier to obtain alcohol to encouraging alcohol advertising at Florida’s family-friendly attractions.

If you’re one of those who occasionally – or even frequently – partakes in the consumption of adult beverages, ask yourself the following questions:

Do you feel like your box of wine isn’t already big enough?

Do you feel there are too many restrictions to prevent someone from driving home with an open bottle of wine?

If so, you will love provisions of SB 296 and HB 669.

Both bills aim to increase the allowable size of wine containers and at the same time loosen restrictions on individuals who open a bottle of wine at a restaurant and then want to bring it home. The two changes combined will make it so any Floridian of age could order a giant bottle of wine at a restaurant, have a few bites of a meal (a term that’s not defined so could be a cracker or two) and then hop in the car and head home.

Perhaps getting booze at a restaurant or liquor store isn’t your thing. If so, you’re going to love HB 667 and SB 1020 because both affirm that a third party service should be able to deliver alcohol straight to your doorstep. What could possibly go wrong when the proof of age of the buyer and the recipient now involves a third party and the transaction takes place outside the watchful eye of the licensed retailer’s premises?

If you’re a beer drinker – or even if you’re not – do you think consumer choices should be limited to a handful of premium brands? If so, you will love HB 961 and SB 1224. These bills give large beer companies the ability squeeze smaller competitors out of certain markets by giving away branded glassware to bars and restaurants. The inevitable outcome is that only large companies that can afford to provide free glassware to restaurants – a tempting offer for any restaurant or bar – will be able to lock that restaurant in to carrying those brands. And because there are only so many taps in any restaurant or bar, many smaller brands that can’t afford to give away free glassware will get elbowed out.

Not exactly a conservative, “free-market” bill where everyone can compete on equal footing.

If you believe nothing says “family friendly” more than children’s attractions branded with beer advertisements, SB 822 and HB 775 are for you. These two bills create a special exemption to alcohol advertising restrictions that will allow only Florida’s purportedly “family friendly” theme parks to cooperatively advertise with beer companies and even have rides or events branded by beer companies (note the section on “tied house evil,” and while the phrasing may sound odd, but that’s the relevant provision in the proposed bill).

If these bills pass, you should thank your lawmakers for ensuring your next family vacation includes Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Budweiser’s Tower of Terror and a visit to a famous dolphin show brought to you by LandShark beer.

Aside from Florida families and the free market, the biggest losers if these bills pass may be conservative legislators that have to explain why they passed such a massive liberalization of the state’s alcohol policy in the middle of what will definitely be a hotly contested 2018 election cycle.

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