SWFL veteran groups benefit from state’s allowance of alcohol sales

The state says fraternal groups are exempt from the executive order that bans bars that derive more than 50% of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages from providing those services on premises.

We looked at why the new changes Friday are important to allow groups like Englewood’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10178 to continue to operate.

After the state ordered businesses without other services to stop selling alcohol on premises, chairs at the VFW in Englewood have been empty for months.

“Most of the people, pretty much all of the people, left,” said veteran Danny Fuson, the commander of Post 10178.

Down the road at American Veterans Post 777, non-alcoholic beer wasn’t cutting it.

“We can open and sell food, but not alcohol,” said veteran Bill Capozzi, the commander of Post 777.

That’s over now. The state already allowed bars with a food license to sell liquor, and now fraternal groups can do both too.

“Our biggest obstacle was convincing the state we are not a restaurant; we are not a bar; we are a veteran organization,” Capozzi said.

“We’re just waiting until we get people back in here, getting the word out now that we are completely open,” Fuson said.

It’s a weight lifted for both the AMVETS and VFW.

But bills are up, and membership is down for these groups.

“It had a big impact on the post here as well as revenue coming in,” Fuson said.

“Being closed and not being available for them to do it, the number of renewals is down,” Capozzi said.

Still, the state’s update is a long-awaited, necessary lifeline. The veterans we spoke to are confident they can recover with the lifting of the prior constraint.

The state is still working on a plan to safely reopen all bars and breweries in Florida.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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