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Tallahassee Democrat: Fuentes: Level the playing field on Florida’s alcohol sales laws

Monday, February 13, 2017

Julio Fuentes, My View

Technology has completely transformed today’s society. In 2016, Black Friday saw more customers shopping online than in retail stores for the first time. This is not a one-time occurrence, but a shift in societal norms – brick and mortar retailers will never surpass online sales again in our lifetime.

So how do traditional retailers remain competitive? One way to meet the demands of a changing marketplace is found in legislation the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce supports to repeal the antiquated Alcohol Separation Law, which was passed more than 80 years ago.

This law requires that distilled spirits be sold in a separate location from groceries – creating unnecessary burdens and increasing costs on both consumers and businesses. If passed, this bill will reduce governmental regulation and allow all retailers to stand on equal footing. Not to mention, Floridians will no longer need to stop at two separate locations when grocery shopping.

In this day and age, mobile apps, online stores and delivery services make it easier than ever to shop from home with just the click of a button. That said, traditional retail stores looking to compete with the ease of online shopping must be more creative and flexible to offer something the consumer can’t get online. If you look at traditional retailers that are thriving, it’s because they’re offering something you can’t find online, whether that be personal shopping or tap rooms that offer growlers for sale.

A great example of adapting to the changing marketplace and advances in technology is ABC Liquors, coincidentally one of the leading opponents to this legislation. To provide a more convenient shopping experience for their customers, the retailer partnered with mobile app Drizly to offer one-hour alcohol delivery straight to the customer’s doorstep. An ABC regional manager was recently quoted as saying, “It’s another way for us to get our products into our guests’ hands. It’s the way society is going and it’s just a convenience.”

We couldn’t agree more. So the question remains, why would ABC advocate for convenience for some customers, but oppose it for others?

The bill is nothing more than a fairness issue. All we’re asking for is a level playing field for all retailers, rather than shackling outdated and unnecessary regulations that can keep competition out of the marketplace.

At the FSHCC, we support opportunities to empower our state’s hardworking Hispanic business owners. We must give these businesses the tools to compete on a level playing field, not keep them out of the marketplace by an antiquated law. The free market should decide what retailers stock on their shelves.

Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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