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

Preeminent liquor and business licensing consultant and a foremost authority on alcohol regulatory compliance. Former director of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, advising public and private sector clients across the United States. 

John Harris is a sought-after liquor and business licensing consultant operating in the alcohol beverage space throughout the United States. Known for his deep understanding of state and federal alcohol beverage policies and intent, he helps clients navigate compliance issues as they plan for growth and capture market share. John advises clients in all three tiers of the alcohol beverage industry, including manufacturers and importers, wholesalers and exporters, and brand owners and retailers.

John provides the full complement of advisory services for clients in the alcohol beverage sector, from buying and selling liquor licenses, to licensing and compliance, drafting proposed legislation/administrative rules/petitions for declaratory statements, and analyzing civil, criminal, and administrative complaints. His integrated services include guidance on regulatory requirements, government processes, alcohol beverage dealer training, and liquor and business licensing. John’s depth of experience helps relieve the frustration that can accompany licensing and regulatory compliance. He brings expertise in working with executive branch government agencies and decision-makers, key staff members, and other industry stakeholders. A trusted intermediary and consensus builder, he represents clients before city, county, state, and federal tax, enforcement, and licensing agencies and serves as an expert witness on responsible dealing in alcohol beverage and tobacco products.

Additionally, John consults with clients adjacent to the alcohol beverage sector, including capital fund managers, with respect to ownership structure and compliance with state alcohol “tied house” policies, food industry owners and operators, and other professionals and businesses requiring licensure. He also works with public sector clients and nonprofit organizations to secure special sales permits.

Before joining GrayRobinson, John built a thirty-year career at the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, serving in successive leadership roles under six gubernatorial administrations, including as deputy director and director, where he was responsible for overseeing enforcement, licensing, tax auditing, educating industry members, the public, and law enforcement agencies about the state’s alcohol and tobacco policies, the administrative rules and laws expert, and the Administrator Hearing Officer. He was also appointed interim director and formal hearing officer of Florida's Pari-Mutuel Wagering Division and interim secretary for the Florida Department of Business Regulation. John’s many years of hands-on experience make him a valuable resource for both clients and colleagues. He frequently collaborates with GrayRobinson lawyers and professionals in the government affairs and lobbying, administrative and regulatory, and litigation practices to facilitate complementary consulting, and advisory services for alcohol beverage and food service clients.

* Denotes non-attorney professional  

  • Insights
    • "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
    • Panelist, "Are Hospitality Businesses Ready for State Emergency Orders to be Lifted?," COVID-19 Conversations Webinar Series, June 10, 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
  • Affiliations
    • FBI National Academy Associates
    • Florida State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, Past President
    • National Alcohol Beverage Control Association
    • National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, Past Vice President
    • Boys and Girls Club, Founding Director – Tallahassee area
    • Economic Club of Florida
    • Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy Scholarship Sponsor, Florida State University
    • Rotary Club of Tallahassee, President 2011-2012
    • Second Chance Scholarship Sponsor, Tallahassee Community College
    • Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, Board of Trustees 2020-2025
    • United Way, Miami and Tallahassee, Florida 2023-2025
    • Flagler College, Chair and Advisory Board to Dean 2021-2024
  • Credentials
    • FBI National Academy, 1978
    • University of Virginia, 1978
    • B.S., Florida State University, 1970