Most of Tampa Bay’s new liquor licenses won by applicants from South Florida, Tallahassee

Liquor behind the bar at the Pelican Pub, 18 2nd St N, in downtown St. Petersburg. The state’s annual drawing for quota liquor licenses, which can be very lucrative for winners, was held today. [DIRK SHADD | Times file]

TALLAHASSEE — The newest batch of quota liquor licenses for the Tampa Bay area will go to applicants from South Florida and Tallahassee.

In its annual drawing, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco on Wednesday drew winners for 51 licenses in 26 counties including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. The winners now have the right to apply for the licenses, which they can either use themselves or resell for well over $100,000 apiece.

Winners in the drawing for the three Hillsborough licenses are from Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Tallahassee. Winners for the two Pinellas licenses are from Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee. And a person from Leesburg won the solo new license for Pasco.

Florida is one of 17 states with quotas in the number of liquor licenses issued, and is among even fewer that distribute new licenses via a lottery. A county gets one license for every 7,500 increase in population. Unlike most beverage licenses, which are limited to beer and wine or a specific location, quota licenses are coveted because they can be used almost anywhere in the county that zoning permits. And the only way to get one is to buy it — for amounts that can be $500,000 or more in certain counties — or win it in the annual drawing.

BACK STORY: Florida’s liquor license lottery can make you a ton of money. So why is it such a secret?

As the Tampa Bay Times has reported, the state has done little to publicize the drawing. Those entered in Wednesday’s drawing had to submit their applications by last October; the application period for next year’s drawing runs for 45 days starting on the third Monday in August.

"I can tell you that the process of obtaining a license in Florida is a real mystery, especially to first time applicants," said David Steck, who coaches businesses on responsible alcohol beverage service. "It’s real pain point here in the Sunshine State."

Because the process is so little known, relatively few people enter the drawing and the odds of winning are great. One of the Hillsborough winners this time also won the only license available in Leon County. Several winners over the years have had the same address in Atlanta – 2236 Abbey Lane NE. A woman at that address won one of the seven Dade County licenses available in the current drawing.

Other winners this year included an attorney for the United Nations in New York City; a Tallahassee lawyer who works for the state; aFort Lauderdale real estate agent and at least two residents of The Villages, the huge retirment community in Central Florida.

As in previous drawings, most of the winners were individuals; the only business that won is a liquor store in Jensen Beach.

Applicants pay $100 per entry and can enter for as many counties as they want, but only once for each county.

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