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Taking your wine to go: A look at Florida open container laws

For many people, going out to dinner at an upscale restaurant is a rare occurrence reserved only for special occasions. Perhaps even rarer are instances where people order a full bottle of wine to drink with their meal. Though the situation may not happen often, it can create a unique situation many of our readers may not have considered before now: what happens to the bottle if it isn't finished?

Most states prohibit the removal of alcohol from premises where alcohol is served, such as restaurants. Called open container laws, these laws usually lead to criminal charges, including time in jail and fines, if violated. While Florida does have strict open container laws, there is one exception: partially consumed bottles of wine.

Let's take a look.

Under Florida statute 564.09, patrons of a restaurant are allowed to leave the premises with "one unsealed bottle of wine for consumption off the premises," provided certain criteria are met. The wine bottle must be:

  • Consumed with a full course meal
  • Resealed by the licensee or one of its employees
  • Secured in a bag or container
  • Wrapped in a way that shows it was previously opened
  • Attached to a dated receipt indicating the full course meal
  • Transported in a locked vehicle compartment, such as a trunk, or behind the seat furthest from the driver, if there is now trunk

Because most patrons may not be familiar with the specifics of this law, it's important for restaurant managers and staff to follow procedure correctly and to explain things to patrons before allowing them to leave the premises. Failing to explain things correctly can result in patrons leaving a restaurant with an improperly stored open container, which could lead to a traffic stop and potentially criminal charges.

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