Alcohol Sales in Florida: Policy and COVID-19

COVID-19 has forced every state to balance public safety with supporting local businesses. Florida, like all states, has had a number of problems fighting the virus. It’s currently the state with the fourth highest number of cases. So how have alcohol sales in Florida been affected by all of this? Read on to find out how on-premise alcohol sales took a hit while off-premise sales continued to increase.

The overall numbers for alcohol sales in Florida

Like all of the United States, including alcohol sales in Texas and alcohol sales in Ohio, alcohol sales in Florida have been impacted by the pandemic and lockdown. According to the NIH, alcohol sales in Florida were up as much as 35.7% during the peak months of the pandemic compared to prior averages for those months. Even with on-premise sales closed down, overall spirits sales were up. This was not the case for wine and beer sales which decreased significantly for a two-month period during the pandemic. However, by September of 2020, spirits, wine, and beer were all up considerably. 

Pandemic policy regarding alcohol sales in Florida

During a peak of Florida COVID-19 cases in June of 2020, Florida suspended on-premise alcohol consumption in bars. This specifically targeted any vendors whose alcohol revenue totaled more than half of their total gross. However, those vendors were permitted to sell beverages in sealed containers for off-premise drinking while restaurants, on the other hand, were still allowed on-premises consumption. This suspension lasted for about a week and by  the first week of July, the order was amended to allow any establishment licensed to sell food to sell alcohol. Those without a license to sell food were still restricted to sealed off-premise sales.

Now that Florida has entered Phase 3 of their re-opening plan, which went into effect in September of 2020, all restaurants, bars and nightclubs are allowed to operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. However, keep in mind that local governments still have their own requirements that may be stricter than the state regulations. 

Hours, locations and taxes

As you can imagine, alcohol sales in Florida are impacted by a number of restrictions. 

Generally speaking, alcohol is not allowed to be sold in Florida between midnight and 7 A.M. Of course, like a number of laws regarding alcohol, this can vary depending on the county and municipality. For example, Miami-Dade county permits alcohol sales 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Generally, alcohol sales are permitted on Sundays, but, again, this can vary depending on local laws.

Beer and wine are available from a variety of locations: supermarkets, gas stations, retail stores, etc. Spirits, however, are only available from package stores.

Of course, there are taxes. General sales tax in Florida is 6%. On top of that, a number of additional taxes come into play for alcohol. There’s a tax of $6.50 per gallon of spirits, $9.53 added for spirits over 55.78% alcohol, $.48 added to beer and $2.25 to wine ($3 if over 17.259% alcohol, $3.50 if sparkling). On top of all of that, hotels and motels can charge an additional 2%.

There’s an interesting legal loophole when it comes to what sizes of beer can be sold in Florida. While beer can be sold in a 32-ounce container (or smaller) or 128 ounces or larger, it can’t be sold in the range in between. This means 40 ounce bottles or growlers of 64 ounces aren’t legal. But purchasing more than that amount (for example, two 32 ounce growlers) is fine. 

As for continuing to serve alcohol to go in Florida, it’s going to be interesting to see what the future holds for alcohol sales in Florida. Florida is one of thirteen states that’s trying to make drinks-to-go permanent. Customers have become accustomed to ordering drinks to go with their takeout, so restricting this ability post-pandemic might prove problematic. 

Some changes will be necessary to help bars and restaurants survive, while alcohol suppliers must also learn to adapt to the new normal. That means adopting some new strategies to improve your sales process and having a plan in place to overcome any future challenges is key.

FAQs

Is Florida selling alcohol on-premise?

Currently yes. While it had been mostly suspended from March to June of 2020, bars are able to sell on-premise again.

Can you order alcohol to-go in Florida? 

Yes. In fact, there’s currently legislation in progress to make to-go cocktails legal beyond any COVID-related programs. 

When can alcohol be sold in Florida? 

While the overall rule is that alcohol can’t be sold between midnight and 7 A.M., each county and municipality has its own exceptions, including being sold 24/7 in Miami-Dade.

Why does Florida not sell 40z? 

Due to an odd legal restriction on selling beer in sizes between 32 and 128 ounces, vendors in Florida cannot sell 40oz alcohol containers. Anything above or below that range is fine.

Is there a sales tax on alcohol in Florida? 

Yes. The general sales tax is 6%, plus a tax of $6.50 per gallon of spirits, $9.53 added for spirits over 55.78% alcohol, $.48 added to beer, and $2.25 to wine ($3 if over 17.259% alcohol, $3.50 if sparkling). 

How has COVID-19 affected alcohol sales in Florida?

During the peak of the pandemic, alcohol sales were up overall, particularly in the spirits category. Wine and beer sales experienced a blip in sales for a brief two-month period.

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