Liquor to go making gains in legislature

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 10:55 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Floridians have enjoyed alcohol to go and delivery from restaurants for the past year.

It’s a result of executive action taken by the governor at the start of the pandemic, and lawmakers are now looking to make the change permanent.

The governor first allowed restaurants to deliver and sell alcohol to go on March 20th, 2020.

It appears the policy will likely stay around for good.

“Due to government-mandated closures they have had to adapt to serve the needs of their customers. The governor’s executive order has helped restaurants accomplish this goal, while also providing a convenience to customers,” said Rep. Josie Tomkow, who is sponsoring a bill that would make the change permanent.

The legislation came up in its first House committee Thursday.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association told lawmakers extra sales have been a lifeline for many eateries.

“Some restaurants have closed and will never come back and for those that are hanging on and hanging in there, this is one of the things that’s helping them do that,” said Samantha Padgett, General Counsel for the association.

Rep. Scott Plakon expressed some hesitancy, questioning whether liquor should be included.

“I’ve always kind of put those in separate piles, the hard liquor versus beer and wine so I’m voting yes today, but that could change,” said Plakon.

Previous efforts to permit liquor to go have fallen short, but this year making the case against the bill will be more difficult, since it’s been allowed for almost a year now.

“We’ve proven that it can be done, that it can be done safely,” said Carol Dover, President of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Dover believes the continuation of liquor to go will help restaurants as they face the long recovery ahead.

“It’s helped people stay alive. It has helped people have a job. Don’t take it away. No sense in going backwards,” said Dover.

The bill received unanimous approval in its first House and Senate committees.

It has two more stops in the Senate and one more in the House before it’s ready for a floor vote.

Pending legislative approval, alcohol to go will continue in Florida, so long as the governor’s state of emergency for COVID-19 remains in effect.

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