The American South has been heralded as a hub for job growth and business creation in recent decades. The region’s dedication to creating the right tax and regulatory environment for businesses to thrive has been largely responsible for that success. Now, this pro-growth ethos is even extending to the realm of alcohol delivery, which has long been restricted throughout the South.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous 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 an alcohol delivery bill during the current session.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Americans across the country have been ordered to shelter in place and practice social distancing, which has made everyday activities like eating at a restaurant or going to the store more difficult. In response, the home delivery of products has surged during COVID-19 as citizens re-discover the tremendous convenience of having something placed on your doorstep.

But many states, like Alabama, have longstanding laws on the books that make it illegal for alcohol to be among those products delivered. Restrictions on alcohol shipping or delivery are not new. America’s legal system has placed stringent rules on the transportation of alcohol dating back to even before Prohibition, and government officials have continued to express skepticism in recent years.

But when a majority of states responded to the pandemic by temporarily relaxing at least some of their rules around booze delivery, Americans saw how convenient and safe delivery alcohol was, which has in turn increased pressure on legislators to pass more pro-delivery laws. Last summer, Georgia started the southern reform flood by passing a new law that permanently allows alcohol delivery from grocery stores. And currently Mississippi, South Carolina and Arkansas are considering delivery reforms in addition to Alabama.

One key nuance in these delivery overhauls has been what type of businesses they apply to. Some only pertain to specific types of licensees, like breweries or restaurants, while others apply to all types of alcoholic beverage sellers. Another wrinkle is that some reforms only propose allowing store employees themselves to make alcohol deliveries, rather than permitting the use of popular third-party delivery services like Shipt or InstaCart.

Alabama’s currently pending legislation smartly applies to a broad array of retailers and delivery services, including restaurants, grocery stores and delivery companies. It also authorizes the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency to conduct deliveries from the state’s network of government-controlled ABC stores if the state chooses to do so. Allowing ABC spirit deliveries would be particularly useful in response situations like the recent closure of over 40 state stores on account of increased COVID-19 cases.

The main pushback alcohol delivery has faced around the country is based on concerns that it could spike drunk driving rates. The reality, however, is that delivering alcohol to consumers where they live will reduce the need for the proverbial beer run, which sadly is often undertaken after several drinks.

Another concern has been that booze delivery will enable minors to purchase alcohol more easily and have it delivered to their parents’ house. But just like with on-premise purchases, delivery personnel are required to verify ID to ensure that the buyer is of age.

Delivery alcohol has additional virtues beyond just convenience to consumers. It helps small businesses like restaurants and retail shops that are badly struggling during the COVID-19 economic malaise by increasing sales opportunities. It can even assist revenue-starved state governments to recoup some of the tax money they have lost during the pandemic.

As policymakers continue to grapple with the ways in which the pandemic has overturned our prior ways of life, re-thinking alcohol delivery laws should continue to be a focus. COVID-19 has shown that Americans want alcohol delivery, that it is safe, and that it’s good public policy.

Image credit: melnyk mariya

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