A visitor's guide to drinking in the Sunshine State

Navigating Florida's alcohol laws is no easy task, especially to the traveler passing through, because rules tend to change from place to place. State laws are one thing, but Florida usually grants municipalities the authority to make their own laws. This can result in confusion for visitors working up a thirst as they move through different cities and counties. Here are a few of the most important laws regarding alcohol sales in Florida. Keep them in mind and, wherever you find yourself, just ask about what applies. No one wants to be shut out when it's time to celebrate in the Sunshine State.

When to go

Florida establishments aren't allowed to sell, serve or permit consumption of alcoholic beverages between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. the following morning – with the exception of railroads selling alcohol to passengers on railroad cars. In some Florida cities, however, visitors can buy drinks as late as 3 a.m.

Happy days and blue days

There aren't state laws on the books that restrict alcohol sales based on days of the week, but some cities in Florida enforce blue laws, which prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

Municipal governments across the state have, however, been loosening those restrictions in recent years, citing benefits to the tourism industry and the economy overall. Visitors should check local laws to see whether the city they're visiting has a blue law in place.

Beer and wine vs. liquor

Some states restrict the sale of liquor to liquor stores, allowing grocery stores to sell only beer and wine. This is the case in Florida as well, despite legislative efforts. In 2017, a bill that would have allowed grocery stores and gas stations to sell hard liquor on shelves next to beer and wine was defeated, with critics arguing that the bill could make it easier for those under 21 to obtain alcohol and that it might impact sales from small liquor businesses. For now, visitors hoping to purchase liquor must do so at a liquor store. Beer and wine, however, are available at grocery stores and gas stations.

Find a good place

Florida forbids drinking alcohol "at curb or drive-in stands," unless those areas are on the premises of a vendor holding a license for alcohol sales. In other words, don't drink on the streets in Florida. The state also requires vendors selling alcohol to close "whenever any riot gathering of a mob occurs" nearby, meaning that during civil disturbances, local governments can halt alcohol sales throughout a whole city or county.