John J. Harris*

John J. Harris*

Senior Government Affairs Advisor

T 850.577.9090
F 850.577.3311
D 850.577.5491
Tallahassee 301 South Bronough Street Suite 600 Tallahassee, Florida 32301

John’s foundation of knowledge in alcohol beverage and tobacco regulations; government processes; government decision makers; alcohol beverage dealer training; and liquor and business licensing were developed during his 28-year government career. Serving under six governors, his entire government career was with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, ("ABT"), retiring after leading the agency for eight years as its deputy director and director. Today, John has over 54 years of experience in government and consulting. His government career began at ABT working in the mail room. He was promoted to serve in every law enforcement position there, as well as the division’s hearing officer, Chief of Enforcement, Administrator Hearing Officer, administrative rules and laws expert, "tied house" and trade practices expert, licensing expert and director. He was also appointed interim director of Florida's Pari-Mutuel Wagering Division; and interim secretary for the Florida Department of Business Regulation. John retired from public service in 1996  when he and attorney, Richard Blau, formed a group of lawyers and former state and federal alcohol agency administrators who are GrayRobinson's Alcohol Beverage, Regulated Products, and Business and Professional License Team, consulting clients throughout the United States for the last 26 years.

John’s clients include all tiers of the alcohol industry (manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, exporters, brand owners, and retailers); capital fund managers, regarding ownership structure and compliance with state alcohol "tied house" policies; the food industry; and professionals and businesses required to be licensed. GrayRobinson’s Licensing Team prepares federal, state, and local liquor, business, and professional license applications. John’s expertise is working with executive branch government agencies and legislators.

John represents clients before city, county, state and federal tax, enforcement, and licensing agencies. His practice includes licensing; state tax; enforcement notices; formal complaints; compliance certifications; drafting language for administrative rules; drafting language for legislative bills; drafting petitions for declaratory statements; drafting petitions for administrative rule waivers; reviewing responsible alcohol dealer serving practices; analyzing alcohol beverage criminal and civil complaints; compliance with regulations; and knowledge about government agencies and  key staff members. He has been recognized by the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, the National Alcohol Beverage Control State’s Association, the American Bar Association, attorneys, consultants, government agencies, legislative leaders, professionals, business owners, non-profit groups, and industry associations. He also has experience solving business and professional licensing and regulatory problems with local and state executive-branch agencies. He continues to be involved with new and amended many of Florida current alcohol regulations and law. His widespread knowledge and 54 years of experience of alcohol laws, regulations, licensing, trade practices, government policies, and how government agencies operate gives him a unique consulting perspective to assist clients on compliance questions, understanding government policies, creative solutions to problems, and drafting language for new state policies. 

Areas of concentration:

  • Alcohol beverage dealer responsible selling and serving practices
  • Alcohol beverage, tobacco, food, and business licensing/registrations (retail, wholesale, import, manufacture)
  • Alcohol beverage, tobacco, and food compliance guidance and problem-solving
  • Represents clients before executive and legislative branches of government
  • Expert witness on responsible dealing in alcohol beverage and tobacco products and alcohol beverage regulations
  • Administrative rules
  • Legislative bills
  • Petitions for declaratory statements and rule waivers
  • Evaluating complaints alleging violations of alcohol beverage, tobacco and food service laws and administrative rules (formal administrative complaints, civil complaints, and criminal complaints), and providing clients guidance to resolve issues with government agencies
  • Professional and business licensing/registrations with local, state, and federal government agencies
  • Alcohol Beverage Trade practice questions and "tied house" ownership questions and guidance

* Denotes non-attorney professional  

  • Education
    • Florida State University, B.S. criminology (1970)
      • Post Graduate Education in public administration and administrative law
    • University of Virginia (1978)
      • Post Graduate Education in constitutional and evidence laws
    •  FBI National Academy (1978)
      • Post Graduate Education and Training in Law Enforcement, Management and Leadership
  • Professional Associations and Memberships
    • FBI National Academy Associates
    • Florida State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, Past President
    • The National Alcohol Beverage Control (States) Association
    • National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, Past Vice President
  • Civic
    • Rotary Club of Tallahassee, President, 2011-2012
    • Boys and Girls Club, Founding Director – Tallahassee area
    • Economic Club of Florida
    • United Way, Miami and Tallahassee, Florida
    • Second Chance Scholarship Sponsor, Tallahassee Community College
    • Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy Scholarship Sponsor, Florida State University
    • Rotary World Polio Immunization
    • Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, Board of Trustees
  • Articles and Publications
    • "Know the ‘Habitual Drunkard’?Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, January 2021
    • "Which Liquor License is Right?Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, October 2020
    • "Which Liquor License is Right?Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, September 2020
    • "Minding Your Business in the COVID-19 Era," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, August 2020
    • "Adopting New Delivery Protocols," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, July 2020
    • "Phased Re-Opening of Hospitality In Florida," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, June 2020
    • "Tobacco 21: The Impact on the Tobacco and Alcohol Marketplace," January 2020
    • "Let’s Get Off to a Good Start," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, January 2020
    • "Unforeseeable Consequences: What’s Your Liability?" Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, October 2019
    • "Food and Beverage Service in Funeral Homes: Are You in Compliance?" The Independent Reporter, Fall 2019
    • "Food for Thought," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, August 2019
    • "It's a Mixed Bag of Information," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition July 2019
    • "Sell Food? Then You Need to Know Food Safety Laws," Southern Beverage Journal, Florida Edition, June 2019
    • "GrayRobinson Stays on Top of Liquor Law, Rule and Non-Rule Policy Changes for Clients," Fintech Focus, April 2018
    • Southern Beverage Journal Magazine, monthly columnist, 2007 – present
    • "Distinguishing Myth From Law When it Comes to Alcohol Regulatory Compliance," Fintech Focus, May 2014
    • "Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco Regulation: Questions and Answers," Petrogram Magazine, Fall 2008
    • "Picking and Keeping Law Enforcement Officers in Florida," Florida Police Chief Magazine, May 1997
    • Co-Author, "Florida Tobacco Control Legislation," The Journal of the Florida Medical Association, Inc., 1996
    • "Picking and Keeping Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers in Florida," Criminal Justice In Context: Crime and the Community, October 1994
    • Food and Beverage News Magazine, monthly columnist, 1985-1996
  • Presentations and Seminars
    • Panelist, "Are Hospitality Businesses Ready for State Emergency Orders to be Lifted?," COVID-19 Conversations Webinar Series, June 10, 2020