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Thursday, March 8, 2018

New liquor law means more boozy cocktails for Orlando's restaurant-goers

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2018 at 4:16 PM

  • Photo courtesy Maxine's on Shine
Smaller restaurants in the downtown core are raising a glass today.

That's because the Florida Legislature passed Bill HB1447 by a vote of 38-0 which allows smaller restaurants in a designated area of downtown Orlando to obtain a special liquor license.

The caveats: Restaurants must be at least 1,800 square feet; must be equipped to serve at least 80 persons at a time; and derive at least 51 percent of their gross revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages.

The designated area, called the "Downtown Restaurant Area," is the sector bounded by Westmoreland Drive to the west; Ferncreek Avenue to the east; Gore Street to the south; and Colonial Drive to the north (including the North Quarter District).

Prior to the bill passing, restaurants were required to be at least 2,500 square feet and be equipped to serve 150 persons in addition to deriving 51 percent of sales from food and nonalcoholic beverages in order to obtain the license.

The other option restaurants had was to obtain a "quota" liquor license, which are so limited in number that most restaurateurs resort to purchasing them from other restaurateurs, often for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cost for the special liquor license is $1,820 per year and restaurateurs, like Kirt Earhart of Maxine's on Shine, are over the moon and already devising their cocktail programs.

"I plan on serving liquor in one week's time," says Earhart.

"I'll go easy at first, just to get a gauge as to what my customers want, then I'll shut down for a couple of days to deconstruct and reconstruct the bar area."

Earhart was at the forefront of the movement to get the bill passed and says he wants to be the "poster child" for other cities and districts wanting to follow downtown Orlando's suit.

Visit the Florida Senate website for more information on House Bill 1447.

So many restaurants, so little time. Find out the latest dining news every Friday morning with our weekly Food + Drink newsletter.

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