alcohol sales

Advocate staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Beer, wine and hard liquor could be delivered to homes under legislation that advanced Monday by a state Senate committee.

Senate Bill 246 would create provisions for Louisiana retailers, restaurants and third-party agents, like Waitr or Instacart, to deliver factory-sealed alcohol to consumers through delivery services.

The bill advanced without objection from the Senate Judiciary B committee after sponsor Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, and industry stakeholders amended the measure to be more inclusive by allowing part-time as well as full-time employees of the state’s existing delivery services to transport alcohol. The legislation now moves to the full Senate.

Morrish’s bill would require the delivery personnel be employed by third-party delivery companies or Louisiana-licensed retailers, be a minimum of 18 years old, have a valid $25 responsible vendor permit and validate the customer’s age when delivering the order. The retailer must purchase the alcohol from a Louisiana-licensed wholesaler.

The alcohol also can only be delivered during days and hours the retailer is authorized to sell alcoholic beverages. Deliveries can’t be made in dry towns or parishes, or to university or college campuses, Morrish said.

The deliveries would also be limited to factory-sealed beverages, such as a bottle of wine or bottled beers. Mixed drinks, glasses of wine and other beverages in open containers would be prohibited, Morrish said.

His bill as originally written would have allowed restaurants and retailers more flexibility in the kind of alcohol delivered, but that wording was substituted with tighter restrictions, he said.

“No one is sending a Jack and Coke via a third party delivery service,” Judiciary B chairman Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, said.

Lawmakers and enforcers raised concerns about liability and enforcement.

“I’m a Grambling Knight. I run a mortuary and I’ve been driving a hearse all my life, basically,” Sen. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport, said. “I used to go and pick up wine and go back to Grambling and sell it out the hearse. Young people do things like that. This happens, and more so in this situation. You’ve got to have some form or way of policing it.”

Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard said the bill creates vague standards for liability and enforcement. Lombard said the bill needs to provide explicit standards either requiring permitting of third-party vendors or outlining liability for the licensee where the sale originated.

A clear chain of responsibility needs to be outlined so the ATC can administer penalties when delivered alcohol falls into the wrong hands, she said.

Representatives for the Louisiana Retailers Association and third-party vendors said they were on-board with reasonable permitting requirements, but the biggest concern was language that would restrict delivery eligibility to third-party delivery services with full-time employees.

No delivery services are employing full-time workers right now, Rouse’s Enterprises chief executive Donny Rouse said.

Rouses Markets contracts with Instacart and Shipt, who both rely on contract workers for their delivery services. Requiring delivery services to employ full-time workers would preclude Rouses and other retailers using similar services from participating in the alcohol delivery program, Rouse said.

Instacart representative Jessica Starns, former chief attorney for the ATC, said the company employs stay-at-home mothers, students, firefighters and others who need flexible work hours. Starns said specifying full-time employees for one product would “create some winners and losers” instead of allowing all alcoholic beverage purveyors to operate on a fair playing field.

Morrish said the provision wasn’t intended to create imbalance in the market, but to approach the issue with an “abundance of caution” and allow businesses greater control over the employees and the alcohol delivery.