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Legislative Delegation

The annual Osceola County Legislative Delegation met Jan. 18 in Kissimmee. Both the mayor of St. Cloud and Kissimmee asked state lawmakers to introduce special downtown business liquor license bills in March.

The mayors of Kissimmee and St. Cloud want to raise a glass to small downtown restaurants - and they’re asking state lawmakers for help.

On Tuesday, Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez and St. Cloud Mayor Nathan Blackwell asked Florida legislatures to back a bill that would allow small downtown restaurants to obtain special liquor licenses if they meet certain requirements.  

An establishment would need to be at least 1,000 square feet, serve a minimum of 50 patrons at one time and derive at least 51 percent of its gross revenue from the sale of food and nonalcoholic beverages to qualify.

The licenses would not be transferrable outside downtown restaurant areas.

Both mayors said the measure would help drive traffic and promote growth in their burgeoning downtown areas.

“This will allow more choices in restaurants and it will aid economic redevelopment in downtown,” Blackwell said.

A similar law went into effect in Orlando last year.

Prior to the passage of House Bill 1447 last March, downtown Orlando restaurants were required to be at least 2,500 square feet and equipped to serve 150 persons, in addition to the 51 percent food revenue requirement.

Similar rules are still on the books in Osceola County, and local officials claim that’s hindering growing businesses.

“Several merchants within the urban core have shown support for this request,” Alvarez said. “The change would allow existing smaller restaurants to significantly benefit from liquor sales and potentially encourage new restaurants to open within downtown Kissimmee.”

Blackwell and Alvarez proposed the bills at this year’s Osceola County legislative delegation meeting Thursday morning. The annual event gives local leaders a chance to ask for funds and legislative support from state representatives and senators who head to Tallahassee in March.

The liquor license proposal received unanimous support from the four Florida lawmakers who voted to introduce it when this year’s session begins.

“I had the privilege of having it in Orange County (last year), and it’s a good bill,” said State Senator Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee). “I think it would help the businesses owners locally.”

State Representative Mike La Rosa (R-St. Cloud) said he also wants to address the issue at a statewide level, so that each local government doesn’t have to introduce its own small business liquor license bill.

Torres said he would join La Rosa in a bi-partisan effort to introduce such legislation, in addition to passing the bills proposed by Kissimmee and St. Cloud on Thursday.  

“That way all the small businesses know that we support them, and they can survive in this economy,” Torres said.