In the midst of social distancing edicts, many thirsty Georgians wish they could have alcohol delivered to their front doors. While there is clearly demand for such services, which would prove especially beneficial during the smoldering pandemic, it’s illegal in the Peach State.

Even so, Georgians are a step closer to being able to have alcohol delivered directly to their doorstep thanks to HB 879. Before the Georgia General Assembly adjourned due to the coronavirus, the bill cleared a major legislative hurdle and stands poised to make Georgians’ lives much easier, when the Legislature returns.

An alcohol delivery measure is long overdue in Georgia, given that it can greatly benefit consumers and public safety even in the absence of a pandemic, but only if it is carefully crafted. Indeed, while HB 879 is based on a great concept, it’s not perfect because, as written, it would exclude some companies from conducting these deliveries, which is problematic. After all, without maximizing private competition, Georgians will not be able to enjoy the full benefits of home alcohol delivery.

The relatively recent advent of e-commerce has reoriented how consumers interact with merchants. Not surprisingly, customers like to shop around for the best value and avoid long lines and traffic. In short, they prefer the convenient, hassle-free experiences that can only be found by ordering products online and having them delivered to their homes.

Strangely, home alcohol delivery from retailers like grocery stores is strictly forbidden in Georgia, but this ban exists for no justifiable reason. After all, merchants already specialize in selling products to consumers. Expanding delivery privileges to include alcohol would simply be an extension of an already existing practice.

If this weren’t enough, it’s possible that permitting an expansive alcohol delivery paradigm could make Georgia’s roads safer. Consider this: An untold number of fun-loving Georgians like to imbibe at home—especially during college football season—but if they run out of alcohol and want more, they have to decide between calling a taxi or driving to the store themselves in order to purchase more alcohol. Too many unfortunately decide to get behind the wheel in these situations.

A broad home alcohol delivery model would discourage drivers from engaging in this kind of conduct. Indeed, companies have already rolled out under-an-hour alcohol delivery in some corners of America. If Georgians can have beer or wine conveniently and cheaply delivered to their home in less than an hour, why would they risk driving after having a couple drinks? Fewer likely would, which would make Georgia safer.

As we have seen in the many other states that already permit home alcohol delivery, it can be done responsibly. In fact, merchants who make deliveries must follow the same rules and regulations that prohibit the sale of alcohol to minors or the dangerously intoxicated.

The reality is that HB 879 is a fantastic concept and has the potential to do all of this. Yet, the measure can be further improved to maximize competition, which will better serve Georgians. As it stands, some companies, current and future, would be excluded from making deliveries, and this kind of market constriction will likely have adverse effects. A more permissive approach will foster increased competition, drive down costs and ensure that delivery companies place a premium on exemplary customer service as they vie for consumers’ loyalties.

In the end, a better, more efficient service will encourage more people to use it, which will ultimately make Georgia a safer place. HB 879 can be the catalyst for that change.

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