One of my colleagues enjoys pointing out that many red states, including my home state of Georgia, engage in nanny-state lawmaking and attempt to restrict largely innocuous behavior. While the truth is that Georgians enjoy many more liberties than most states, the Peach State unfortunately has a history of enacting laws that are downright puritanical, especially in the realm of alcohol regulation.
Until recently, Sunday alcohol sales at Georgia grocery stores, gas stations and liquor stores were banned. Even though lawmakers ultimately loosened these restrictions, Georgians still must wait until after church lets out to buy booze from these establishments. What’s more, state laws greatly restrict the number of liquor purveyors: No family or corporation can own more than two stores in the state.
Those pushing for smart deregulation have achieved some successes, like permitting stores to sell alcohol on Sundays and restaurants to sell liquor by the drink before 12:30 p.m. on those same days. But more changes might be coming. In fact, rumors of efforts to liberalize other alcohol statutes, including those restricting home alcohol delivery, have recently been brewing. While a bill hasn’t been filed yet, this would be a major success that could aid public safety and responsibly provide Georgians more freedom.
Currently, Georgia has a peculiar stance on home alcohol delivery. The law stipulates that while wine may be shipped directly from wineries to Georgians’ homes, liquor and beer may not. It further restricts all types of alcohol from being delivered from retailers to homes. These distinctions make little sense. Retailers specialize in selling products to consumers, and allowing home delivery from retailers to consumers is merely an extension of that practice.
The fact is that delivery services have revolutionized commerce and satisfied consumers’ desire for hassle-free experiences. They allow customers to shop around for the best deal and have products delivered to their homes, meaning shoppers do not have to cope with traffic or long lines at stores.
The beauty is that companies such as Amazon, Drizly, Saucey, Doordash, Minibar and Thirstie are already waiting in the wings. With liberalized home delivery laws, these companies would be able to expand into Georgia and partner with local liquor stores.
I decided to give home liquor delivery a try, but I was curious about how strictly sellers would enforce alcohol-related age restrictions. So I ordered my California-based co-worker (who is over 21) some of his favorite mezcal — which, if you haven’t had it, smells a bit like a witch’s brew of rubbing alcohol, gasoline and smoke. Nevertheless, he likes it, so I had it delivered.
When the courier arrived at my colleague’s home, he wasn’t there, meaning there was no way to verify his name or that he was of age. Fortunately, the delivery person waited until these facts could be established before making the delivery, which happened a little later. In short, the purveyor acted like a mobile liquor store, following the same rules and regulations that prohibit minors from purchasing alcohol.
In addition to making shopping more convenient for consumers and keeping alcohol out of children’s hands, the alcohol home delivery model could also improve public safety. Consider this: If fun-loving Georgians entertain guests at their homes and run out of liquor or beer, they face a few choices: They can abruptly conclude their gathering, call and wait for a taxi to take them to the local store, or drive drunk to acquire more alcohol. Yet with a more expansive alcohol home delivery paradigm, party hosts could instead order booze online and receive it in near real-time (Amazon has already begun rolling out one-hour-or-less alcohol home delivery in some locales outside of Georgia). This policy would almost certainly encourage more Georgians to think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking too much, which would reduce DUIs and save lives.
Time will tell whether the rumors of alcohol home delivery bill come to fruition. If they do, and policymakers give the bill serious consideration, Georgians stand to benefit. What’s more, I can point this out to my co-worker as another area in which red states are cutting unnecessary regulations. Cheers to that!
Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs for the R Street Institute, and he is a longtime Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.