Lawmakers On Board With Alcohol At Train Stations

Jan 25, 2016

Passenger train riders on many existing lines --- or for services that may link Miami to Orlando or run across the Panhandle --- would be able to buy drinks at train stations under a measure approved Monday by a Senate panel.

The proposal is part of a wider-ranging bill (SB 698), sponsored by Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and would permit the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to issue alcoholic beverage licenses to the owners of railroad transit stations, existing and planned.
The division could also issue alcohol licenses to the operators of restaurants or shops tied to rail stations.

Bradley said before the meeting of the Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee that the bill doesn't specify any existing or proposed passenger rail service.

However, a staff analysis of the proposal specifically highlights --- without commenting --- that All Aboard Florida, an offshoot of Florida East Coast Industries, is building stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando for its Brightline passenger rail service that is expected to begin running next year.

Meanwhile, the Southern Rail Commission has recently announced it is in talks with Amtrak about providing daily service from Orlando to New Orleans, possibly within five years.

A study has tentatively affixed stops in Pensacola, Crestview, Chipley and Tallahassee.

The legislative proposal could also result in alcohol being sold at the Tri Rail stops from Mangonia Park to Hialeah or the more than 20 stations along the Metrorail in Miami-Dade County.

The measure specifies that a “railroad transit station" handle passenger trains running regular, fixed schedules between two or more cities.

Also, under Bradley's proposal, a permit wouldn't count against any quota license restrictions that limit the number of such permits that may be issued per county.

Municipalities or counties also wouldn't be able to impose additional licenses or taxes to sell alcohol at stations.  And the "railroad transit station" license could not be transferred beyond the stations.

A House proposal (HB 645) by Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, has a somewhat similar proposal regarding train stations and alcohol sales. Her bill goes before the Business and Professions Subcommittee on Tuesday.