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Can Your Restaurant Deliver Alcohol (or Sell It as Takeout) Now?

March 26, 2020
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Scott
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Drizly, one of the largest alcohol delivery services, has seen sales jump over 300% in the last week (and 450% in NYC in the 72 hours after bars shut down) as people stock up on beer, wine, and spirits to make sheltering-in-place a little more exciting.

Conclusion 1: People are still drinking.

Alcohol makes up 30–40% of restaurant revenue. Alcohol also has one of the highest markups in retail food service. 

Conclusion 2: Not being able to sell alcohol is a huge revenue loss.

Based on these two conclusions, it makes sense to temporarily adjust liquor laws so restaurants can leverage this uber-valuable commodity. And that’s exactly what some state and local governments have done. In many locations, businesses with existing liquor licenses for on-premises alcohol sales and consumption can now sell the same alcohol types they’re licensed for but for off-premises consumption. That means takeout and delivery.

The following locations have changed either their laws or the enforcement of their laws. Read below for the details, links to the primary source and documentation of the change, and what, generally, must be observed to take advantage of the change lawfully.

Here are the states and municipalities that now allow restaurants to sell alcohol through delivery and takeout:

Atlanta

Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance signed an executive order on March 20th that allows bars and restaurants to serve alcohol during the coronavirus crisis. The order states that no action will be taken “against the sale of unopened wine and/or malt beverages by the package for off-premises consumption by restaurants and other eating and drinking establishments licensed for consumption of wine and/or malt beverages which must cease offering dine-in services, but which may continue to prepare and offer food to customers via delivery service, drive through, or takeout.” The present order is not to exceed 60 days. For more specific questions regarding requirements and eligibility, the Office of the Mayor should be able to provide guidance.

California

California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control issued a notice of regulatory relief that eases the rules of alcohol delivery and takeout sales for restaurants and other retailers. They now allow on-premise licensees to sell alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption. The notice, as of this writing, has no end date but the state of California says it’s temporary and any revocation of it will be accompanied by a notice at least 10 days prior to its termination.

To qualify, restaurants must:

  • Comply with the item types of the existing, active liquor license. If, as a Type 41 establishment, you are not usually licensed to sell distilled spirits, you are still prohibited from doing so.
  • Sell beer, wine, pre-mixed drinks, and cocktails only in conjunctions with meals prepared for takeout or delivery
  • Alcohol must be packed in a container with a secure lid or cap and in a manner designed to prevent consumption without the removal of the lid or cap
  • Prominently display a liability warning (provided in the regulatory relief notice)
  • Accept delivery payments only at the licensed premises and not accept payments at the place of delivery

Colorado

As of March 20th, 2020 Colorado's Department of Revenue announced the suspension of the law that prohibits “retailers licensed for on-premises alcohol consumption to sell, deliver, or provide for takeout sealed alcohol beverages.” The suspension will last for a period of 30 days, until April 18th, 2020.

In order to comply with the temporary suspension and sell sealed alcohol for off-premises consumption, restaurants must:

  • Operate a licensed on-premise retail establishment that sells food or a brewery that operates an approved salesroom
  • Provide alcohol in sealed containers
  • Hold one of the following on-premise retail license types: Beer and Wine, Brew Pubs, Club Licenses, Distiller Pubs, Hotel & Restaurant, Lodging and Entertainment, Tavern, or Vintners Restaurant
  • Sell alcohol with the sale of food
  • Receive orders online, in-person, over the phone, or through a 3rd-party vendor
  • Deliver alcohol only to the address provided at the time of order
  • Deliver alcohol only to and only from individuals 21 or over
  • Retain all records regarding the delivery of alcoholic beverages

Illinois

The State of Illinois Executive Department issued an executive order on March 16th, 2020 that allows all businesses in the state that offer food or beverages for on-premises consumption—including restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and food halls—must prohibit on-premises consumption. Affected restaurants are “encouraged to serve food and beverages so that they may be consumed off-premises, as currently premitted by law, through means such as in-house delivery, third-party delivery, drive-through, carry-out, and curbside pickup.” The order remains in effect through March 30th, 2020, unless otherwise stated.

The general requirements are:

  • Establishments, including food trucks, must maintain an environment for patrons to observe adequate social distancing
  • The new regulations do not apply to businesses located in airports, hospitals, or college and university dining halls

Maryland

The Governor of Maryland issued an executive order on March 12th, 2020 that, in accordance with social-distancing recommendations of the Maryland Department of Health, allows restaurants on bars to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery as of March 16, 2020. The executive order offers a bit less guidance than the others, but the requirements are:

  • Food and beverages must be promptly taken off the premises if acquired through takeout or drive-through
  • Food and beverages must be delivered to customers off the premise

Nebraska

On March 19th, 2020, Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts signed Executive Order No. 20-06 which provides coronavirus-related relief for restaurant and bar operations. Because bars and restaurants across Nebraska must close their dining rooms, they’ll “need flexibility to innovate by moving to takeout service, delivery, and/or curbside service,” per the order.

To get that flexibility, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission enacted the following temporary change: all businesses that are authorized to sell alcohol in their establishments now have the ability to sell alcohol along with food takeout and delivery orders.

The executive order doesn’t get into as much specifics as other states’, but it does also state that the requirement for payment for delivery of beer, wine, and distilled products within 30 days of delivery has been extended to 90 days. To fully ensure that your business is operating lawfully within the new relief order, please contact the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

New Hampshire

On March 18th, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu issued an emergency order that allows for patrons to order beer and wine for pickup and delivery. The order remains effective until April 6th, 2020, unless otherwise indicated. In the declaration, Gov. Sununu outlines the new permissions the New Hampshire Liquor Commission allows: “all restaurants, diners, bars, saloons, private clubs, and any other establishment that have both a restaurant license and an on-premise liquor license are temporarily authorized to allow takeout and delivery of beer and wine.”

The basic requirements are:

  • The order must be paid for at the licensee’s place of business before the alcohol is loaded onto a vehicle
  • All beers and wines must be transported in their original, manufacturer-sealed containers
  • Beverages must be no more than 192 ounces of malt beverages or 1.5 liters of sparkling or still wine
  • Within delivery vehicles there must be a copy of the restaurant license and a delivery invoice showing the quantities, type, origin, and destination of the food and alcoholic beverages in the order
  • All deliveries must be accompanied by food prepared by the restaurant licensee and ordered by the customer
  • No deliveries will be made to any college, university, school, public or private, within the state, and no deliveries will be made to any public library, public playground, or public park
  • No beer or wine will be transferred to a person on a street, sidewalk, or public way
  • Deliveries of beer and wine must be between 6 a.m. and 11:45 p.m.

New York

The New York State Liquor Authority released guidance on to-go and delivery sales in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The gist is that any on-premises licensee or any manufacturing licensee with on-premises retail privileges may sell any alcoholic beverage intended for off-premises consumption that they’re able to for on-premises consumption under the law. That includes both takeout and delivery. The change went into effect March 16th, 2020 and lasts until April 15th, 2020 but “may be extended or reduced depending on the circumstances.”

Here are the primary requirements:

  • Alcoholic beverages must be sold in a closed or sealed container and be consistent with municipal open container ordinances
  • Alcoholic beverages must be accompanied by the purchase of food
  • Deliveries must be made by a vehicle permitted by the NYSLA or a vehicle owned and operated or hired by the licensee or its employee, and a copy of the permit or license must be present in the vehicle
  • Alcoholic beverages intended for off-premises consumptions must be sold during the on-premises hours of the business as set forth in the licensee’s official method of operation

Texas

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission distributed an industry notice on March 19th, 2020 to all restaurants that hold a Mixed Beverage Permit outlining the allowance of alcohol pick-up and delivery with orders of food. There is no stated end date in the official documentation.

Eligible restaurants will:

  • Hold a Mixed Beverage Permit
  • Have permanent food service capabilities on-premises
  • Have been forced to end dine-in services by a governmental entity due to the coronavirus pandemic

The requirements for the lawful operation of the new policy are:

  • The alcohol must be accompanied by a food order (there is no required food-to-alcohol ratio)
  • All distilled spirits must be delivered in a manufacturer-sealed container that is 375 mL or less (see our post about liquor bottle sizes to get an idea of how big that is)
  • Deliveries may only be made to a location where the sale of that type of alcohol is legal and within the county where the business is located or up to two miles beyond the city limits in which the business is located if the city crosses a county line
  • Delivery recipients must not be intoxicated and must show valid ID that confirms they’re 21 or older

Washington, D.C.

The Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed an emergency COVID-19 response bill that allows some bars and restaurants to sell alcohol for carryout and delivery. And in response to that, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulations Administration in D.C. released an FAQ to help guide affected businesses.

Basic eligibility and requirements are:

  • Beer, wine, and spirits can only be sold for carry-out and delivery between 7 a.m. and midnight
  • Alcohol delivery may only be to residences located within D.C.
  • Alcoholic beverages must be ordered with at least one prepared food item; pre-packaged items such as chips can be ordered as well but don’t satisfy the prepared food requirement
  • Alcoholic beverages must be sold in a closed container that, when provided to the customer, have been closed with a top, cap, cork, seal, or tab seal
  • No customers pay consume the alcoholic beverage on-premises


The above provided covers the primary eligibility and requirements. Please see the linked-to documents and consult directly with each regulating authority for the full requirements, and please contact the regulating authority with any further questions. If you or anyone you know is in need, please check out our list of bar and restaurant relief funds and the ways to support hospitality staff during the crisis, including ideas to replace lost wages. All of which can be found in our coronavirus resource and information hub for bars and restaurants.