New alcohol laws go into effect in Lakeland

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) — New alcohol laws go into effect this weekend in Lakeland, allowing consumers to purchase beer, wine and liquor at the same times on Sunday as any other day of the week.

That makes daily alcohol sales in Lakeland permissible from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m. In the past, blue laws banned the sale of alcohol on Sunday until noon and cut it off at midnight leading into Monday morning.

Blue laws were intended to encourage church attendance and promote religious morality but a lot of people say that’s the “old school” way of thinking and people are going to do what they want to do.

The final vote this week at city commission was unanimous. Before the vote, some local bar operators stood before commissioners saying uniformity across the week helps people understand the laws and obey them. And if people want to drink, they said, the time constraints are only going to mean they’ll do it at home.

But Florida Southern College’s Vice President of Advancement Rob Tate believes it’s about safety and that the blue laws shouldn’t budge. “I’m advocating that we not change the time and that’s on behalf of the students of Florida Southern and other colleges who are underage,” Tate said. “There are some establishments in town, that continue to serve our students who are underage.

“They’re serving high school students and one night would be good for some of those students to stay home and be safe,” Tate added.

This change also wipes away the ban on packaged liquor sales on Sunday in Lakeland.

Unincorporated Polk County, outside Lakeland city limits, is still sticking with the blue laws. Commissioners there may revisit the topic if there’s public demand to consider a change.

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