Florida

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Won't Let You Buy Booze in Grocery Stores

Scott claims the anti-consumer veto is about helping small businesses. It's not. It just maintains government-granted privilege for a handful of businesses.

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RICHARD B. LEVINE/Newscom

Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers to sell liquor alongside the beer and wine they already offer. The proposal to tear down Florida's so-called "liquor wall" had cleared the state legislature despite opposition from groups that benefit from the mandatory separation of liquor sales, including the liquor stores themselves and a major grocery chain that runs a series of independent liquor stores.

The Miami Herald reports that the "winners" from Scott's veto include independent liquor-store owners, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and Publix Super Markets," all of which opposed the bill as it was making its way through the state legislature. Rory Eggers, president of the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which represents the privately-owned, spirits-only retailers across the state, said in a statement that the group delivered more than 3,000 petitions to Scott urging him to veto the bill.

Like a good Republican, Scott claimed the veto was about looking out for the best interests of the business community in Florida—even though the businesses in question only exist because of a protectionist scheme that's been maintained by the state government since the end of Prohibition.

"I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida," Scott wrote in his veto message. "I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me how this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs."

Scott's logic doesn't make much sense, though. By his reasoning, Florida should mandate that each and every product sold in grocery stores or Wal-Marts have to be sold by a separate retailer. There should be one store for vegetables, another store for paper goods, a separate one for dairy products, and so on. Imagine how many small businesses that would create!

That's nonsense, of course, just like the governor's argument for maintaining Florida's protectionism for liquor stores. Scott can dress it up however he wants, but this veto is very much an anti-consumer move. Retailers that want to make shopping more convenient should be allowed to do that.

The claim that he's protecting small businesses is similarly questionable. Under the current law, large grocery stores like Publix benefit from being able to house separate liquor stores within their footprint, while smaller grocery stores that can't afford to do that are not allowed to sell liquor.

Most of all, though, this is about maintaining a special government-granted privilege that benefits some businesses at the expense of others.

It's another illustration of the relationship between government and booze that I highlighted earlier this month in a feature about the latest efforts to reform Pennsylvania's liquor laws. The only difference is that, in Pennsylvania, the liquor stores are government-run entities and the employees are government workers (and public sector union members), so it's Democrats who typically argue against doing away with the stand-alone liquor stores. When they do, they use pretty much the same reasoning that Scott employed this week in Florida, claiming that allowing other retailers to sell liquor would hurt the workers whose jobs only exist because of government edict.

In Florida, the liquor stores are privately run (which is better, I'll grant), so it's Republicans like Scott defending them as small businesses in need of government protection.

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20 responses to “Florida Gov. Rick Scott Won't Let You Buy Booze in Grocery Stores

  1. And the repercussions of the suffrage movement never end.

    1. My oldest daughter recently confessed she’d be willing to give up the vote just for the sake of disenfranchising the rest of women voters.

      1. The youth of America are with me: https://youtu.be/-uPcthZL2RE

      2. Ann Coulter pointed out that since women got the vote, if you subtracted their vote in presidential contests, the conservative candidate would have won, every time.

      3. she’d be willing to give up the vote just for the sake of disenfranchising the rest of women voters.

        You have apparently raised a fine young lady…

        Well done, Sir!

  2. Why are supermarkets in Florida allowed to sell orange juice? Doesn’t that adversely effect the roadside stands that growers maintain? How about lumber – shouldn’t that be sold in Pop’s Lumber Yard and Sawmill and not at Home Depot? I know – don’t give the legislature any ideas.

    1. The political difference between enacting a new prohib’n & maintaining an old one. The status quo always has backers who already have $ & an investment.

  3. WTF is wrong with people. Get bent you idiot. Even in lefty California where everything is regulated, we can buy beer at grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, etc.

    1. Here in Ohio, you can buy all the beer and wine you want in a grocery store, but all the liquor is the watered down 40 proof crap due to state law.

      You have to go to “special room” to get real booze…

  4. Like a good Republican, Scott claimed the veto was about looking out for the best interests of the business community in Florida…

    If other retailers wanted to count as part of the business community they should contribute more to GOP campaigns.

  5. even though the businesses in question only exist because of a protectionist scheme that’s been maintained by the state government since the end of Prohibition.

    This sounds similar to CO. A 1934 law that created liquor-only stores to prevent gangsters from transitioning. In CO case, that law also prevented liquor stores from having more than one outlet and prevented grocery stores from selling more than 3.2 beer except in one outlet (eg the Safeway in Littleton has a full liquor sales license). The end result is that liquor stores don’t have purchasing economies of scale but there are a ton of local craft brewers/distillers (incl one that current Gov started) that could never bribe chain stores for shelf space.

    Legislation was passed last year undoing it – but phased in over time (and maybe too much time). The ‘fear’ being that if it is done all at once, liquor stores would simply be driven out of business because they can’t merge/expand as fast as already-merged grocers could stock their shelves and undercut prices. And craft brewers/distillers would lose their sales outlets. The chain grocers did try to petition an initiative (supported by the local LP) based on purist ideology – but they didn’t get the signatures.

    Just to say – that ideology/purism doesn’t really help much once you get into the weeds and try to figure out exactly HOW to deregulate. Cronyism can happen on both sides.

    1. A 1934 law that created liquor-only stores to prevent gangsters from transitioning.

      From booze to other retail? Or from other retail to booze?

      1. Prohibition started four years earlier in CO than nationwide. In large part because women got the vote in CO in 1893. So there was a different crime dynamic. They wanted to keep the gangsters from using liquor stores to launder money from or be a front for gambling/racketeering/bookmaking/etc.

  6. They’re just becoming more Minnesotan.

  7. By his reasoning, Florida should mandate that each and every product sold in grocery stores or Wal-Marts have to be sold by a separate retailer. There should be one store for vegetables, another store for paper goods, a separate one for dairy products, and so on. Imagine how many small businesses that would create!

    C’mon, man! You’re putting the trenchant comments right in the article – save some of that for the commentariat! We’re familiar with Freidman’s comment on observing manual laborers being used in lieu of machinery “for the number of jobs it creates” that if they really wanted to create jobs they’d take away the laborer’s shovels and give them spoons.

  8. Scott’s logic doesn’t make much sense, though. By his reasoning, Florida should mandate that each and every product sold in grocery stores or Wal-Marts have to be sold by a separate retailer. There should be one store for vegetables, another store for paper goods, a separate one for dairy products, and so on. Imagine how many small businesses that would create!

    Don’t give them any ideas. Some European countries’ business licensing schemes are almost equally arcane and stifling.

    1. The business licensing laws may be dumb and arcane. But they have a very different effect than US laws – esp re retail. Their primary goal is to force product competition/variety not to kill it. The primary goal of US retail laws (and deregulation efforts) is to encourage/subsidize real estate speculation/debt. BOTH can be and usually are cronyist.

      They are the reason eg France has a ton of cheeses (most of which are illegal here in the US unless they are pasteurized and thus tasteless) and other true specialty foods. It is why they enjoy spending time eating while Americans just enjoy obesity and the most boring food menu in the world.

      Yes – it does mean that industrialized mass/national production of beef/chicken/pork is cheaper in the US. But oddball/charcuterie/local production of any of those three meats – or the slew of other meats (rabbit, goose, venison, quail, etc) is far more expensive/unavailable here. And when a food is unavailable, people don’t even realize the possibility that it can exist.

  9. In Loisiana you can buy liqour everywhere but strangely there are still liqour stores right next to the 7-eleven and Walmart selling liqour.

    1. Do they have a better selection than the C stores?

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