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Lathan Alexander, owner of Alexander's Highland Market, is surrounded by bottles of wine in his store Friday. Stores and restaurants across Louisiana are expected to start home delivery of alcoholic beverages in the next two months. Alexander said as soon as he can start delivering alcohol, they'll begin the process.

Restaurants and stores across Louisiana are expected to start home deliveries of alcoholic beverages in the next two months, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a pair of bills allowing deliveries.

Ernest Legier, deputy commissioner at Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control, said the goal is to have a process in place in the next month to accept and approve applications from businesses to deliver beer, wine and liquor.

“In the next week and a half or two weeks, we hope to put some meat on the bones and get some temporary rules codified,” Legier said.

Meanwhile, businesses — among them the Louisiana-based restaurant food delivery service Waitr, Alexander's Highland Market in Baton Rouge and Keife & Co. in New Orleans — say they are looking forward to making deliveries and getting further guidance from regulators that goes beyond the legislation. 

House Bill 508, by Rep. Chris Leopold, R-Belle Chasse, sets up the rules and standards for Class B liquor retailers to bring factory-sealed beverages to residences during their authorized store hours.

House Bill 349, by Rep. Thomas Carmody Jr., R-Shreveport, authorizes Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control to issue permits for the delivery of low-alcohol-content beverages by restaurants, grocery stores, package houses and third parties. Permits will cost $250 for restaurants, package houses and grocery stores that deliver direct and $500 for third parties hired to do the delivery.

The bills establish a number of rules for home alcohol delivery service. The beverages must be in a factory-sealed container, so restaurants will not be allowed to sell cocktails. Delivery drivers will have to go through the same alcohol training as bartenders and waiters to make sure they don’t serve liquor to intoxicated customers.

The drivers also will carry scanners to make sure the customer who placed the order is older than 21 and has a valid I.D. Businesses will not be allowed to deliver liquor outside the parish they operate in. And alcohol deliveries to schools and college campuses are forbidden.

Some other rules need to be established, Legier said, such as whether the state will require customers to order food with their liquor or whether there will be a limit on how much alcohol can be delivered at one time.

The goal is to create a system that offers customers the immediate gratification of having alcohol delivered to their home through online services, while ensuring public safety, he said. “All retailers are moving toward internet-based delivery services,” Legier said.

So far there haven't been very many retailers and third-party companies looking into liquor deliveries, he said. 

But Waitr, the Lake Charles-based restaurant delivery service with operations around the state, has said it plans on starting alcohol deliveries. The company was one of the main backers of efforts to allow customers to order beer, wine and liquor. 

Chris Meaux, chief executive officer of Waitr, said he was pleased the legislation passed because it will help the company's restaurant partners increase sales.

"Waitr looks forward to helping our restaurants grow their businesses even further," Meaux said. "Pending final permitting, we’re looking forward to delivering beer and wine to our customers’ doors."

Waitr did not disclose how much it expects alcohol sales will add to its business.

Alexander's Highland Market in Baton Rouge has been delivering groceries to homes in south Baton Rouge since spring 2018. Owner Lathan Alexander said he will start liquor deliveries as soon as he can.

"All of our wine, beer and liquor in stock is already on our website for you to buy online," he said. "You just have to choose to pick them up at the store; we can't deliver them."

Alexander said he doesn't expect the alcohol deliveries will lead to new business for his store. Customers won't buy more beer, wine and liquor than normal, he said.

"It will definitely increase our online business, but at the expense of store business," he said.

Alexander said he worries about losing other sales that often happen when a shopper drops by the store to buy a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer for a party.

"I don't know if the same impulse buys happen when someone is ordering online," he said, but customers want the convenience and ease of ordering online for home delivery.

The law changes have left some vendors uncertain about how they will be affected. The catalyst for the new laws came last summer when Brady's Wine Warehouse partnered with the national booze-focused delivery app Drizly, which focused legislators on the fact that liquor delivery had been taking place ad hoc and new rules were needed now that it was moving into the digital age.

John Keife, owner of Keife & Co., said he's happy that the bills were passed so he can provide customers with a delivery service if they want it. But he would rather not have to devote resources to providing deliveries himself. He would prefer to use a third-party delivery app, and said the new laws are unclear as to whether he would qualify because his food offerings are limited to specialty breads, charcuterie, cheeses and the like.

"We'd love to be able to deliver through UberEats and not have to have our own staff tied up doing delivery," Keife said. "As it stands now, it has to be part of food delivery. Maybe there will be some kind of workaround; we do have some food, chips, cheese boards. But there is still ambiguity."

He is hoping that someone will develop an app that would perhaps provide a pooled delivery resource just for liquor shops.

"If someone came to me with an app that we could be part of a delivery system like that, I'd be all over it," Keife said.

This story has been changed to remove a reference to Rouses.



Business writer Anthony McAuley contributed to this report.

Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.