FL: Bill that allows All Aboard Florida to sell alcohol at stations is ready to be heard by the Senate
By Isadora Rangel
February 18, 2016
TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would allow All Aboard Florida to serve alcohol at its train stations is ready to be heard on the Senate floor.
The idea is to help rail projects become “financially viable” by allowing the state to issue licenses for beer, wine and liquor to railroad stations or restaurants that serve passengers, sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley said.
“I think All Aboard was perhaps the inspiration for that but the idea is, hopefully, others will utilize that opportunity and rail will become viable all over the state,” said Bradley, R-Orange Park.
SB 698 changes different alcohol and tobacco regulations and was scheduled to be heard on the Senate floor Thursday but Bradley asked the hearing be postponed because he wanted to study “last-second” amendments that were filed and to make sure the Senate passes a bill that’s equal to its House version. The bill now is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Tuesday.
Senate President-elect Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he will vote against the bill. Many of his constituents in all three Treasure Coast counties and northern Palm Beach oppose All Aboard’s Brightline high-speed trains because of road closures and impacts on their lifestyle. He’s vowed to oppose the rail project as well in the Legislature.
“Obviously it’s a request that they (All Aboard Florida) are making because they believe it will support their enterprise,” Negron said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t be pursuing this legislative proposal.”
Sen. Thad Altman, who represents Indian River County, said he hasn’t read the bill and hasn’t formed an opinion on it.
The rail provision in SB 698 was proposed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Bradley said. Latvala ran against Negron for the Senate presidency in a tight competition that ended when Latvala conceded the race in November. The Republican caucus designated Negron its president for the 2017-18 legislative period in December.
All Aboard Florida plans to begin running its service through the Treasure Coast late next year.
Florida currently allows beer, wine and liquor to be sold to rail passengers for consumption on the cars, and liquor may only be sold in miniature bottles of no more than 2 ounces. The bill would expand that to the stations and restaurants and liquor would not have to be sold in miniature bottles. The license issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation would not be subject to the restrictions, limiting the number of such licenses that may be issued per county. The bill also prohibits local governments from requiring additional licenses or levying an extra tax.
Among its other provisions, the bill authorizes the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to issue temporary alcoholic beverage permits to municipalities and counties for local events; allows distributors to charge vendors a keg deposit; creates a new methodology for calculating beverage and tobacco taxes for passengers vessels traveling internationally.