You may soon be able to add a six-pack to your Shipt order.
Last week, the Alabama Senate passed SB 126, a bill allowing the home delivery of alcohol. If approved by the full Alabama Legislature, this would include beer, wine and distilled spirits sealed in their original bottles from package or grocery stores and from licensed bars and restaurants with a meal purchase.
The bill passed 26-3 and now moves on to the Alabama House of Representatives. If it passes there, it will be put in front of Gov. Kay Ivey to be signed into law.
“Home delivery of spirits is a win-win for adult consumers and Alabama, especially during the pandemic,” David Wojnar, senior vice president and head of state public policy for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), said in a statement. “Spirits consumers will enjoy increased convenience, and the state will receive much-needed revenue. We applaud the Alabama Senate for passing this consumer- and business-friendly measure and encourage the House to move quickly in allowing home delivery of spirits.”
According to the language in the bill, delivery would be paired with verifying customers are of age and prohibiting sales to those already intoxicated. Manufacturers and suppliers may not do home deliveries; only retail businesses licensed by the Alcohol Beverage Control Board may do so.
There are also several beverage-specific regulations. In a 24-hour period, customers may not receive more than 48 12-ounce sealed containers of beer; more than 288 ounces of draft beer; more than six 750-milliliter bottles of wine; and more than 1,750 milliliters of spirits from a package store or 375 milliliters of spirits from a restaurant.
Delivery is limited to personal use and is prohibited from any property controlled by an institution of higher learning like a college dorm. When it comes to dry counties and municipalities, alcohol may be transported across those areas, but may not be delivered to residences within them. And deliveries in wet areas can only take place during regular, alcohol-selling business hours.
For consumers, the benefit of alcohol delivery is obvious: It makes alcohol more convenient and accessible. Maybe you don’t have the time to run to the ABC Store, or you are not physically able to make the trip, or you would just rather stay home instead of venturing out in the coronavirus-plagued public.
Small bars and restaurants, however, may not benefit from the legislation. In order to get a delivery license, a business must file an application with the ABC Board and then pay a $100 filing fee, pay a $1,000 license fee every year and take out an insurance policy to cover delivery drivers for at least $2 million in liability. Drivers may be employees or independent contractors, but they must pass criminal background checks and operate ID scanning software that verifies the customer’s ID is real and saves their info and signature.
The solution may be pairing up with third-party delivery services like Shipt, Uber Eats or Instacart to do the dirty work; in some other states like Georgia, they already deliver alcohol. But bars and restaurants will have to sacrifice a portion of their profits to the third party.
Additionally, the bill defines a restaurant “meal” as “a diversified selection of food some of which is not susceptible of being consumed in the absence of at least some articles of tableware and which cannot be conveniently consumed while one is standing or walking about.” Sandwiches, tacos and pizza do not seem to meet that criteria.
If a license holder violates any of the ABC Board’s rules, they’re liable to face fees or have their license suspended or revoked. They could also face misdemeanor charges, which, based on the language of the bill, the Legislature fully expects to happen.
According to the Senate, revenues from the licensing fees could be added to the state’s general fund and, quite blatantly, “increase receipts to … county general funds, municipal general funds and other funds to which courts costs are deposited; and could increase the obligations of the … district attorneys and local jails by an undetermined amount dependent upon the number of persons charged with and convicted of the offenses provided by this bill and the penalties imposed.”
In 2019, an Alabama senator proposed a bill to allow for beer and wine to be shipped directly to consumers, but it died on the floor. In 2020, in response to the pandemic, the ABC Board passed emergency rules to allow for curbside sales of alcohol from on-premises license holders like bars, but delivery was not permitted.
“COVID-19 has exposed a number of antiquated laws or flaws in the system, not only in the beverage alcohol world but in any supply chain,” DISCUS’s Wojnar said. “As consumers become more reliant upon their smartphones and the internet to make orders for delivery because they physically can’t go shopping, it stands to reason that’s going to be taking place.”
In states where alcohol delivery was legal in 2020, sales in the sector boomed by 350 percent, according to Market Watch magazine.
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist, but is on a brief sabbatical from consuming alcohol due to her current medical condition. (She’s pregnant.) Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
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