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Columns

Tear Down the Wall and Let the Free Market In

March 29, 2017 - 10:30am

ABC Fine Wine & Liquors, Florida’s largest alcohol retail chain, struck a deal last year with a mobile app service to start offering one-hour alcohol delivery with the click of a smartphone. 

Announcing the new partnership, ABC CEO Charles Bailes III declared: “Convenience is everything … we are providing our guests multiple options for delivery. Everyone has different needs and preferences, and we want to ensure our guests will have an option that is compatible with their lifestyle.”
 
I agree with him wholeheartedly. So long as this innovative method to sell alcohol to willing consumers is done legally, responsibly and includes safeguards against sales to minors, then I say “cheers!”
 
Ironically, however, ABC is among the loudest voices opposing a sensible, bipartisan bill in Tallahassee that would allow grocers and other big-box retailers to sell liquor in the same store as food, beer, wine and other goods.
 
Currently, if a grocery-store chain or other retailer wants to expand their alcohol selection from beer and wine to other kinds of liquor, Florida law requires it be sold in an entirely separate retail location. This Prohibition Era red tape foists needless expense on businesses, as well as inconveniences shoppers. 
 
I salute ABC for its innovation. They understand their customers are growing more accustomed to the benefits of online shopping, and want to maximize their convenience. ABC and other retailers need to adapt to market realities in new ways and I would be the first to defend them should any nanny-state, big government politicians attempt to undermine their efforts to do so.
 
Unfortunately, in the current debate before the Legislature, ABC and a few others are the ones fighting giving other retailers the flexibility to sell other kinds of alcohol. This practice is legal in 29 other states, making Florida the outlier. 
 
I’ve always believed in a free market approach, and this issue is no different. HB 81 and SB 106 are not mandates. Retailers who prefer to stick with their current business models — whether that’s a separate store for liquor or one-hour mobile delivery — can do so. But the time has come to replace outdated, expensive regulations and give consumers more options.
 
ABC has been able to innovate without government interference, and other companies should be able to do the same.
 
Christian Camara is the Southeast Region director and co-founder of the R Street Institute.

Comments

Being one of 21 states hardly qualifies Florida as an "outlier." But I agree: making customers walk an additional 75 feet for their booze is tyranny!

R street... brought to you by Wal-Mart.

I'd rather support the small local businesses than support Walmart's attempt to find another way to make an easy buck. If you're too lazy to make two stops while you're out maybe you shouldn't be drinking at all.

Sorry, I care more for the hundreds of established small business owners than Walmart or Target. Someone needs to look out of the little guy. Wasn't that what Republicans used to stand for?

What about the long standing small business liquor stores that these multinational corporations are going to put out of business?

This is not about convenience, this is about market share. Otherwise the "big box" stores (aka Walmart) would not be trying to exclude convenience stores. Florida already has one of the highest consumption rates among states and all this measure will do is further hurt small businesses. This is a matter of public safety. You cannot grab cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, razor blades or sometimes even baby formula without alarms going off in a store. Why then would we put hard liquor next to grocery items? What is to prohibit underage kids or underage employees from shoplifting or drinking while shopping? The current setup requires anybody with intent to purchase liquor to enter a separate store and have a valid ID. This eliminates underage drinking as well as the further marketing to children. Wake up people! Several times this bill was going to get overturned, only then to have votes switched in the 11th hour. Another time, they did not have the votes and the vote was cancelled until they could "ensure" the votes were there. Clever headline but we have walls for reasons. This isn't innovation, this is dangerous.

I just wonder how many more stupid ideas this country can come up with to make all it's citizens goofballs loaded with alcohol and drugs to keep filling up our ERs, slaughtering each other on the highways and on and on. I just don't understand why humans (don't see the animals doing all this nonsense) don't appreciate and embrace life with a clear and healthy outlook.

Let's do the SAME thing to "medical" marijuana; and THEN to Marijuana; and then to cocaine; and then heroine; etc., etc.,.... "EVERYONE is entitled to go to Hell in the fashion of their OWN choosing".. I say ! LET'S GET IT ON !!! (We don't need a "bearded youth" OR "SSN" to tell us "how to grease THAT slide"!!!) Hit a key code on your cell phone, and we'll deliver ANYTHING to your door !

Agreed, However, in the legislature it's called regulation to the highest bidder...

Absolutely !!!!!!

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