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Bill would allow expanded retail sale of canned mixed drinks; distribution issue remains

A bill in the Alabama Senate would allow licensed grocery and convenience stores to sell pre-made, mixed adult beverages, but bill sponsors say there’s still “the sticky issue” of who will be able to distribute the drinks around the state.

Senate Bill 194 defines “mixed spirit beverages” as a “single-serve beverage containing liquor, packaged in a can or a container approved by the board no larger than 16 ounces, and which contains no more than 12.5% alcohol by volume.”

The pre-mixed, canned drinks, including lines of vodka and soda and gin and tonic, can be bought currently at ABC stores or licensed package stores.

The bill by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would create a new license for the broader retail distribution of the beverages.

“There’s some consumer demand that (these drinks) be put out in a little broader retail space, i.e. convenience stores, grocery stores,” Livingston told Alabama Daily News.

Beer distributors requested the legislation, he said. 

“These products are hot and people want more access to them,” Singleton said. “And (Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board) wants everything to come through them to be sold. And so this is just a way of trying to put it out on the shelf so people can get to it. That’s what this bill is about — opening it up.”

Livingston said there are issues to be worked out about franchise licenses. The current bill requires beverage distribution though exclusive wholesaler franchisee licenses.

“The beer and wine wholesalers have always had franchise agreements in place, whereas our friends at the soft drink companies that also want to distribute this operate on a contract basis,” he said.

The fight is going to be over the franchise language, Singleton agreed. He said he’d like to see broader language so that more companies are allowed to get the products to retailers.

“There are a lot of discussions yet to happen on this bill,” Singleton said. “I think what we have here is a vehicle that will hopefully bring people to the table to talk.”

Livingston said he filed the bill to move the debate forward but there are likely more private meetings to be held before the bill goes before the Senate Tourism Committee.

He also said putting spirits in stores that don’t have the same age restrictions as ABC or package stores is part of the discussion.

“How this is done, where this is done, is going to be of interest,” Livingston said.

He said he’s working with ABC on the bill. A comment from ABC wasn’t available.

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