As the COVID pandemic lingers on, lawmakers across the country are considering whether and how to allow the pandemic-era rules many states adopted allowing direct home delivery of alcohol to further expand or become enshrined in what will become post-pandemic law.
Over the last year, the usual social activity of grabbing a quick drink with friends post-work has been paused and transplanted with Zoom hangout sessions while enjoying a favorite alcoholic beverage. Some companies, in order to meet with the growing demand and popularity of home delivery of alcohol have started to piggyback on the success of third-party vendors. Within the first few months of 2021, companies looking to expand e-commerce have transitioned into purchases and mergers with similar businesses. Some of these changes included Uber agreeing to acquire alcohol marketplace Drizly and Vintage Wine Estates, a wine and spirits company, announced it would work with special purpose acquisition company Bespoke Capital Acquisition Corp in a merger that would allow them to go public.
This ongoing trend was highlighted last year in Georgia when Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 879 that allowed for home delivery of beer, wine and liquor from restaurants, bars, convenience stores, some package and retail stores and grocery stores. Breweries and distilleries were not included within the legislation.
Oklahoma SB 1928, passed last year, began allowing for delivery of alcoholic beverages by liquor stores, restaurants, bars and clubs, and grocery and convenience stores. As an expansion to SB 1928, SB 757, which was introduced for the 2021 legislative session, passed the Senate on March 15 and is now awaiting a hearing in the House Alcohol, Tobacco and Controlled Substances Committee. This bill would allow third-party vendors, such as Uber and Doordash to deliver alcohol to residence.
Alabama SB 126, which was delivered to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey on April 7, would allow licensed businesses to deliver sealed containers of beer, wine and spirits to patrons’ homes. Governor Ivey has until April 14 to sign or veto the bill, or it becomes law without signature. AL.com reports that the Alabama Brewers Guild successfully argued that definitions of “retail license” and “retailer” previously used within the bill, and later amended, were ambiguous as state language excluded breweries and distilleries from the state alcohol code.
Lawmakers are also considering HB 437, which would allow wine manufacturers to ship wine directly to residents in the state and allow common carriers to make deliveries of alcoholic beverages to residents. This bill was reported from the Senate Tourism Committee on April 8 with an amendment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, states such as Tennessee have introduced legislation that would have prohibited wineries from shipping to state residents through fulfillment houses, which are widely used within the U.S by wineries to handle shipping logistics. HB 742 passed the House 78-7 on April 8, while the Senate companion, SB 705, has been placed on the Senate State and Local Government Committee calendar on April 14. A recently adopted amendment for HB 742, HA-0150, would create a license for these fulfillment houses with an applicable application and renewal fee. These fulfillment house licensees would be permitted to provide services related to the shipment of wine into or within Tennessee for wineries or direct shippers that are licensed in Tennessee. This amendment specifies that a common carrier must be used for shipping.
As of April 2021, according to the Consumer Choice Center, all but seven states allow for delivery of alcoholic beverages to residential settings, 12 of those allowing for the delivery of all alcohol. While it is still unclear what the post-pandemic world will look like, we do expect to see states addressing the need of e-commerce and either expanding or limiting the sale of alcoholic beverages over the next legislative sessions.
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