Sheriffs oppose hard liquor sales in grocery stores

Sheriffs are rising in opposition to a plan that would let Floridians buy a gallon of milk and a pint of whiskey in the same store.

The bills by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, Rep. John Wood, R-Haines City, and Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, would lift restrictions on grocery and drug stores that require them to sell hard alcohol in a separate store.

But law enforcement officials in at least three counties have said changing state law would be dangerous. They worry it would make it too easy for minors to steal and drink more potent alcohol.

“This proposal raises a lot of alarm bells in my mind,” said Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, one of three who released a statement about the bills Monday morning. “I haven’t heard anyone complaining about finding a convenient place to buy liquor, but I have heard that in states where this legislation has already passed, law enforcement is now having to combat rising incidents of theft and illicit underage drinking inside the stores themselves.”

Currently, grocery stores can sell wine and beer in their main stores, but drinks with higher alcohol content like whiskey and vodka must be sold in a separate store.

While some of its members have spoken out, the Florida Sheriff’s Association does not have an official position at this time. It wasn’t clear Monday if sheriffs in Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas counties have taken positions on the bills.

Steube’s bill will have its first hearing in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.