The online alcohol industry is now a roughly $1 billion industry, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds every year. Just look at the wine industry growth rate. Get in on the ground level and you’ll grow with it.
But to do so, you’ll have to navigate the laws around online alcohol sales. It’s heavily regulated, understandably. And those laws can change based on where your business is based and where you’re shipping to. This makes shipping alcohol a bit complicated.
So let’s look into what kind of alcohol can be sold online and where. Maybe it should become a part of your bar or restaurant business plan.
Can You Sell Alcohol Online?
Yes, you can sell alcohol online direct to consumer. But the laws that govern the sale of alcohol online—and more importantly its shipment—are set by each state.
You’ll need two things to sell alcohol online:
- A retailer’s license from the state your company is based in
- A shipper’s license for every state you intend to ship to
Check your local Alcohol Beverage Control Board for information on your local permit or licensure process for becoming an alcohol retailer.
How to Sell Alcohol Online?
The sale and delivery of alcohol online is an exercise in complicated legal navigation. Doing it on your own can be prohibitively complicated. That’s why using a third-party delivery service or an eCommerce solution is typically the smartest move.
Unless you’ve got a private collection and you’re trying to figure out how to sell wine online. There are some other options like auction houses or wine brokers. Both great ways to get competitive money for all the aged wine you’re tracking in your wine cellar app.
Many eCommerce solutions allow shipping restrictions to be set—along with other sell-selecting features like popups to confirm age and more.
With so many moving parts to online alcohol sales, having everything in a central location is key. So before you do it alone, check out your eCommerce options and pick a partner that’ll make life easier.
What License Do I Need to Sell Alcohol Online?
You need two licenses or permits to sell alcohol online.
The first is your state’s liquor license. You’ll need to become a licensed alcohol retailer in your state. It’s not unlike bartending licenses. It’s all state-specific.
The second is a permit or license for the state you’re shipping to. For the vast majority of states, you’ll need a shipper’s permit to legally sell alcohol online and ship it. Sometimes these will be specific out of state shipper’s permits. And in some cases, only winery permits are required to ship to certain states.
And, regardless of the type of permit, any online alcohol sales and shipping operation must abide by the requirements for each state—from type of alcohol to quantity and beyond.
Where Can I Sell Alcohol Online Easily?
There are two primary alcohol ecommerce solutions out there right now that make this process easier. The first is Drizly and the second is Saucey.
Drizly partners with local liquor retailers to deliver their inventory. They’re what’s known as a marketplace connector. Much like Uber.
By enabling discovery and payment processing through their app, they make it easy for retailers to move inventory via online sales and delivery. They also make sure to abide by all state and local laws.
Saucey is a delivery service only. It does not hold a license to sell alcohol nor is it a licensed retailer. What Saucey does is contract with retailers who have the proper permits and licenses to sell and deliver alcohol—and they deliver that alcohol for them.
While Saucey is certainly valuable for its delivery services, a big selling point for the service is discoverability. Folks will find your inventory for sale through Saucey.
Do I Need a Premises License to Sell Alcohol Online?
A Premises License is licensure that exists in the United Kingdom that grants a specific location the authorization to carry and sell alcohol. In general, yes, you’ll need a Premises License to sell alcohol online in the U.K.
Of course, check with your local legal authority to verify any requirements.
Delivery Laws for Selling Alcohol Online
Again, there are two sets of laws for selling alcohol online. One for selling it, and one for shipping it. In addition to having a retailer’s license for your own state, you’ll have to abide by every destination state’s shipping laws.
Here’s a list that briefly summarizes the alcohol delivery laws of each U.S. state.
This information is not intended to be used as a legal reference. It is, instead, intended to be used as a springboard for businesses to do their own legal research to make sure they’re in full compliance with every federal, state, and local law.
Under existing law, the delivery of beer, wine, and liquor to a residence in Alabama is prohibited. At present, Alabama is the only state that specifically prohibits all direct shipment of alcohol to consumers. See Alabama Code §28-1-4.
But, as of this writing, bill SB126 is likely to pass that would provide for a delivery service license issued by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. It would allow for licensed retail establishments to delivery sealed beer, wine, and spirits directly to individuals in Alabama who are at least 21 or older.
Follow the passage of SB126 and you’ll be kept current on the state of online alcohol sales in Alabama.
Alaska provides a winery license that allows its holders to ship a maximum of five gallons of wine directly to consumers. See Alaska Stat. §04.11.140.
Arizona offers a direct shipment license for the sale and shipment of up to twelver nine-liter cases of wine per year per individual purchaser. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §4-203.04.
Licensed wineries may ship 1 case of vinous liquor per consumer per calendar quarter. Vinous liquor refers to fermented fruit juices containing between 5–21% alcohol by weight. See Ark. Stat. Ann. §3-5-1701 and §3-5-1705.
California allows for the direct shipment of wine to individual consumers. See Cal. Business & Professions Code §23661.3.
Colorado offers a winery direct shipper’s permit that allows the sale and delivery of wine produced or bottled by permittee direct to a Colorado consumer. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §12-47-104.
Wine, cider, and mead can be sold and delivered to Connecticut consumers with a permit. See Conn. Gen. Stat. §30-16.
Wine or beer may be sold and delivered with a direct shipper license. See Del. Code Ann. tit. 4, §526.
Wine, spirits, and beer can be sold and delivered directly to consumers in Washington D.C. See D.C. Code Ann. §25-772.
Most alcoholic beverages can be sold online and delivered in Florida with the correct manufacturer’s, wholesaler’s, or exporter’s license or registration. See Fla. Stat. §561.545.
Wine can be delivered directly to consumers in Georgia with a special order shipping license. See Ga. Code §3-6-30 et seq.
Liquor, beer, and wine may be shipped directly to consumers with certain permits in Hawaii. See Hawaii Rev. Stat. §281-33.1 and §281-33.6.
Wine can be sold online and delivered in Idaho with a direct shipper permit. Delivery cannot exceed 24 nine-liter cases of wine annually per individual. See Idaho Code §23-1309A.
Wine and other alcoholic liquor may be delivered in Illinois with a direct shipping license—wine at a quantity of not more than 12 cases of wine per year per consumer. See Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 235, §5/5-1 and §5/6-29.1
Owners of a direct wine seller’s permit may ship wine direct to Indiana consumers. See Ind. Code §7.1-3-26-1 et seq.
Class A wine permits are given to manufacturers of native wine’s to ship in closed containers to individuals in Iowa. See Iowa Code §123.56.
Any maker or producer of wine in or outside of Kansas that holds a federal basic wine manufacturing permit may receive a special order shipping license to deliver wine to individuals in Kansas. See Kan. Stat. Ann. §41-350.
Distilled spirits, wine, and malt beverages may be sold and shipped to consumers with licensing in Kentucky. See Ky. Rev. Stat. §243.027 et seq and §244.165.
Delivery of wine and sparkling wine is permitted in Louisiana with proper licensing. See La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §26:85.
Wine may be shipped directly to consumers in Maine with a direct shipper’s license. See Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 28-A, §1403-A.
Wine and pomace brandy are permitted sold and delivered to Maryland consumers with a direct wine shipper’s permit. See Md. Alcoholic Beverages Code Ann. §2-142 et seq.
Wine may be sold and delivered directly to Massachusetts consumers with a direct wine shipper license. A direct wine shipper licensee can ship up to 12 cases of wine, containing a maximum of nine liters of wine per case, per year to a Massachusetts resident. See Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 138, §19F.
Wine may be sold directly to consumers in Michigan with a direct shipper license. No more than 1,500 nine-liter cases or 13,500 liters in total volume in a calendar year. See Mich. Comp. Laws §436.1203.
Wine may be sold and delivered directly to individuals in Minnesota at a quantity not more than 2 cases of wine per year per individual. See Minn. Stat. §340A.417.
Wine may be shipped to individuals in Mississippi. Purchasers are limited to no more than 10 cases of wine per year. See 2020 HB 1088.
Wine may be shipped directly to consumers with a wine direct shipper licenses—up to two cases of wine per month. See Mo. Rev. Stat. §311.185.
Direct shipment endorsements are available in Montana that allow licensed and registered wineries to ship up to 18 nine-liter cases of table wine annually. See Mont. Code Ann. §16-4-1101 et seq. Additionally, Mont. Code Ann. §16-4-901 et seq. allows for direct beer shipment with a connoisseur’s license.
The Nebraska statute provides that “alcoholic liquor” can be delivered directly to consumers with a manufacture direct sales shipping license. See Neb. Rev. Stat. §53-123.15.
Nevada allows for wine sales and shipments of up to 12 cases per year per household. See Nev. Rev. Stat. §369.464.
Beer, wine, and liquor may be sold and delivered in New Hampshire with a direct shipper permit. See N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §178:27.
Wine, cider, and mead with proper licensing may be delivered to residents of New Jersey. See N.J. Rev. Stat. §33:1-10.
New Mexico allows for the direct shipment of wine and cider with a direct wine shipping permit. See N.M. Stat. Ann. §60-6A-11.
Wine may be shipped directly to consumers in New York up to a quantity of no more than 36 cases per year by each direct shipper’s license holder. See N.Y. Alcoholic Beverage Control Law §79-c.
A wine shipper permit is available in North Carolina for the sale and delivery of up to two cases of wine per month per individual. See N.C. Gen. Stat. §18B-109.
Wine and beer can be shipped directly with a direct shipping license. The shipments cannot exceed 7.13 gallons or less of wine, 288 fluid ounces or less of beer, or 2.38 gallons or less of any other alcoholic beverages per month. See N.D. Cent. Code §5-01-16.
Permit S allows beer and wine sale and delivery directly to Ohio residents. No household may purchase more than 24 cases of 12 bottles of 750ml per year. See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §4303.232.
A direct wine shipper’s permit is available in Oklahoma. It allows for a licensed winery to ship up to six nine-liter cases of wine annually. See Okla. Stat. tit. 37A, §3-106.
Malt beverages, wine, and cider can be delivered directly to Oregon residents. Amount may not exceed two cases—containing no more than nine liters per case—to any resident per month. See Or. Rev. Stat. §471.223.
Up to 36 cases of wine of up to nine liters in a calendar year may be shipped to Pennsylvania residents with a direct wine shipper license. See Pa. Stat. tit. 47, §4-488.
Any resident in Rhode Island who does not hold a wholesaler license may not receive a shipment of alcoholic beverages. See R.I. Gen. Laws §3-4-8.
Up to 24 bottles of wine per month may be shipped directly to consumers in South Carolina with a winery permit. See S.C. Code Ann. §61-4-720.
A wine direct shipping license is required to sell wine online and deliver it directly to South Dakota residents. Direct shippers may not ship more than 12 cases of wine—at a max of nine liters per case of wine—in any calendar year to any person. See S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §35-12B-1 et seq.
Wine may be shipped directly to residents of Tennessee with a direct shipper’s license. Cannot exceed a total of nine liters of wine per month per individual. See Tenn. Code Ann. §57-3-217.
A winery permit allows for the shipment of wine to Texas residents not in excess of nine gallons per month per individual or 36 gallons per year per individual. See Tex. Alcoholic Beverage Code Ann. §16.09.
Utah allows for the home delivery of wine under wine subscription programs. See Utah Code Ann. §32B-2-701 et seq.
Malt beverages and wine may be shipped directly to consumers. See Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 7, §277.
Wine and beer may be shipped directly to consumers in Virginia with a wine shipper’s or beer shipper’s license. Not more than two cases of wine or two cases of beer per month. See Va. Code §4.1-209.1.
Wine may be delivered to Washington residents with a wine shipper’s permit. See Wash. Rev. Code §66.20.360 et seq.
Wine may be sold and shipped directly to West Virginia consumers with a direct shipper’s license. Amount may not exceed two cases of wine per month per person. See W. Va. Code §60-8-1 et seq.
Wisconsin allows for direct delivery of wine with a direct wine shipper’s permit. No individual in Wisconsin may receive more than 108 liters of wine delivered annually. See Wis. Stat. §125.535.
Wine can be delivered directly to consumers in Wyoming. No more than a total of 36 liters of wine may be delivered to any one household throughout a 12-month period. See Wyo. Stat. §12-2-204.
All state information taken from NCSL.org and intended for reference only. Please verify state statutes and regulations independently before selling and shipping alcoholic beverages.
First thing’s first: you need your own state’s liquor retailer license.
After that, you’ve got a few choices.
You can partner with Drizly, Saucey, or a similar service and they’ll help you delivery locally.
Or you can partner with an ecommerce platform to create a storefront yourself. It’ll be a little harder, and you’ll need to sort out your own delivery, but the margins may ultimately be higher.
Whatever you choose, you’ll need to manage your alcohol inventory with a perpetual inventory system that depletes sales in real time. That’s where bar inventory software like BinWise Pro comes in. It automates beverage inventory management and gives you access to historical data immediately. That’s how profitable decisions are made.