Alabama Alcohol Law: Home Delivery Time

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The southern United States has been touted as a hub for job growth and business creation in recent decades. The region’s commitment to creating the right fiscal and regulatory environment for businesses to thrive is largely responsible for this success. Today, that pro-growth philosophy extends even to the field of alcohol delivery, which has long been restricted across the South.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many southern states have recognized the importance of allowing businesses like grocery stores, liquor stores, and restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages to our doors. Alabama has now joined this party as the state legislature considers a alcohol delivery invoice during the current session.

Since the start of the pandemic, Americans across the country have been ordered to shelter in place and practice social distancing, which has made daily activities like eating out or going to the store more difficult. In response, home delivery of goods has increased during COVID-19 as citizens rediscover the tremendous convenience of having something placed at your doorstep.

But many states, like Alabama, have long-standing laws that prohibit the presence of alcohol among these delivered products. Restrictions on the shipping or delivery of alcohol are not new. The US legal system has imposed strict rules on the transportation of alcohol since even before prohibitionand government officials have continued to express their skepticism in recent years.

But when a majority of states responded to the pandemic by temporarily relaxing at least some of their rules regarding alcohol delivery, Americans saw how convenient and safe alcohol delivery was, which has to in turn, increased pressure on lawmakers to pass more delivery friendly laws. Last summer, Georgia launched the flood of reforms in the south by adopt a new law which permanently enables the delivery of alcohol from grocery stores. And currently, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arkansas are considering delivery reforms in addition to Alabama.

A key nuance in these delivery reviews has been the type of business to which they apply. Some only apply to specific types of licensees, such as breweries or restaurants, while others apply to all types of alcoholic beverage vendors. Another problem is that some reforms only propose to allow store employees themselves to make alcohol deliveries, rather than allowing the use of popular third-party delivery services such as Shipt or InstaCart.

Alabama is currently on hold legislation intelligently applies to a wide range of retailers and delivery services, including restaurants, grocery stores, and delivery businesses. It also authorizes the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency to make deliveries from the state government-controlled ABC store network if the state chooses to do so. Allowing ABC Spirit Deliveries would be especially helpful in response situations such as recent closure of more than 40 state stores due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

The main pushback on the delivery of alcohol across the country is based on fears that it could drive up drinking and driving rates. The reality, however, is that delivering alcohol to consumers where they live will reduce the need for proverbial beer race, which unfortunately is often undertaken after several drinks.

Another concern is that the delivery of alcohol will make it easier for minors to purchase alcohol and have it delivered to their parents’ homes. But just like on-site purchases, delivery personnel are required to verify identity to make sure the buyer is of legal age.

Delivery alcohol has additional virtues beyond mere convenience to consumers. It helps small businesses like restaurants and retail stores that are struggling during the economic malaise of COVID-19 by increasing sales opportunities. It may even help lack of income state governments to recover some of the taxes they lost during the pandemic.

As policymakers continue to grapple with how the pandemic disrupted our past lifestyles, rethinking alcohol distribution laws should continue to be a priority. COVID-19 has shown that Americans want alcohol delivery, that it is safe and that it is good public policy.

C. Jarrett Dieterle is Resident Principal Investigator at the R Street Institute and author of Give me freedom and give me a drink!

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