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Home delivery alcohol sales passes legislature

Katie Tabeling

Delaware may become the next state to allow in-home delivery of alcohol if the governor signs the bill. | FILE PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASHED/JON PARRY

DOVER — The Delaware General Assembly has passed a bill that would legalize delivery of alcohol from restaurants and breweries through third party vendors; it now awaits Gov. John Carney’s decision.

Senate Bill 166, sponsored by Sen. Jack Walsh (D-Newport), created new provisions to allow restaurants, breweries and other venues with liquor licenses to use contractors to deliver alcoholic beverages to the homes of Delawareans. For a fee of $1,000 every other year, third-party services like Doordash and Uber Eats can register with a license from the Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner to deliver libations.

The bill prohibits venues that already hold a license to serve alcohol on-site, nixing the possibility of a restaurant using their own staff to handle deliveries. Companies that also primarily handle interstate shipment of goods would also not be allowed to handle these deliveries.

It’s unknown how many of these companies may become licensed in Delaware at this time, according to the office of the state comptroller.

The state has a unique three-tier distribution system that requires producers — like breweries and wineries — to sell its product to wholesalers, who in turn sell it to retailers.  Delaware is one of the smallest state in the country and this system is intended to work as quality control, but critics have also pointed out that it has limited the ability of beer and wine manufacturers to sell directly to customers.

The six largest distributors in Delaware employ 414 people, handle a payroll of more than $40 million, pay nearly $37.7 million in federal, state and local taxes and are responsible for $208.7 million in total economic impact, according to a 2017 University of Delaware study.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to be creative in reaching customers, Delaware lawmakers have focused on how to ease restrictions on the state’s alcohol industry. That included legalizing to-go cocktails and other drinks back in 2022.

The Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) was heavily involved in developing SB 166 with Walsh this year to keep customer safety and business liability at the forefront. The bill also requires any contractors who make these deliveries to be 21 years old, go through a program on responsible delivery and learn how to detect fake identification and overserving.

Restaurants take responsible alcohol safety seriously and by law must ensure that each individual working with, selling and serving alcoholic beverages be certified under an approved certification course,” DRA President and CEO Carrie Leishman said. “Consumers of all ages are seeking flexibility and enhanced dining options which include food and beverage to go and this new law will be a win-win by providing additional opportunities for consumers and operators alike.”

If Carney signs the bill, Delaware would become the 33rd state to allow home deliveries of alcohol.

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