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Alcohol to-go could be here to stay for Florida restaurants

A bill proposed by Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes would allow the option introduced during the coronavirus pandemic to become permanent.
Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

A program temporarily put in place by a March executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis allowing to-go and delivery orders of alcohol could be here to stay. 

The widely-welcomed move was put in place when coronavirus kept people at home and restaurants relied heavily on takeout and delivery orders. Now, Sen. Jeff Brandes is proposing a bill that would allow a similar service 365 days a year.

The senator representing Pinellas County filed SB 134 on December 4 in hopes that it survives the upcoming legislative session. If it does, it will allow restaurants to "sell or deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption if specified requirements are met."

So, what are those requirements? To qualify the establishment must derive at least 51 percent of its revenue from the sale of food and non-alcoholic drinks. It also needs to meet certain size and service standards to be included.

Beyond that, all orders placed including alcohol must be accompanied by a food purchase. And all alcohol that leaves the premises in an order must be sealed, though the bill does not specify in what manner. 

The bill also looks to allow diners to take home an unsealed bottle of wine for later consumption, as long as it was purchased on-site with a meal, was already partially consumed and is resealed before taken home.

Regardless, any alcohol removed is required to be placed in a locked compartment, trunk, or out of reach to abide by Florida law.

Brandes' bill is something the governor mentioned he could see becoming permanent in the state. During a press conference in May, DeSantis shared he has even used the service himself.

“I allowed them to deliver alcohol, I think that’s been pretty popular, we’re probably going to keep that going,” DeSantis said. “Maybe we’ll have the legislature change the law on that.”

An idea the senator echoed to Florida Politics, "I think it worked really well. We already had a trial run. People already understand why this works,” Brandes said.

SB 134 does not specify if there is a limit on how much alcohol can be taken to-go or delivered under the proposed bill. 

If passed the act will take effect on July 1, 2021. The legislative session begins on March 2.

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