Merle Haggard sang “I Think I’m Just Gonna Stay Here And Drink”. For decades, Alabama’s outdated liquor rules made that easier said than done in the state of Yellowhammer, as liquor delivery was banned and wine shipments from the out of state were severely restricted. But two changes to liquor dispensing rules in the past year look set to radically and significantly change both the way Alabamians get liquor and the way manufacturers and distributors of alcohol see the Alabama market. And while both laws relate to the delivery of alcohol to consumers, they operate in several different and important ways. We examine these laws and differences below.
Home delivery of beer, wine and spirits
In a momentous change, SB126 allows ABC Board-licensed businesses in the state to deliver wine, beer and spirits to customers’ homes. The law allows licensees to use their employees or third-party contractors to deliver alcohol to customers. There are limits to the amount of alcohol that can be sold per customer in a day. For canned or bottled beer, the maximum is 120 12-ounce containers. For draft beer, the maximum is 288 ounces. For wine and spirits, it’s 9,000 milliliters or about 12 x 750 milliliter bottles.
Businesses with an on-site retail liquor license, such as restaurants, cannot exceed 375 milliliters of alcoholic beverages per customer, and the delivery must also be accompanied by a meal.
Delivery employees are subject to criminal background checks and must be trained and certified under the licensee’s pre-approved training program to help identify underage or intoxicated persons and parts of false or altered identities. Drivers should ensure that payment has been processed before removing alcohol from the premises. To confirm customers are 21 or older, they must provide a signature and government-issued ID, which drivers then verify using ID scanning software. If the recipient cannot prove their age, fails to provide a signature, or appears to be intoxicated, the delivery person must return the liquor delivery to the retailer.
Alcohol cannot be delivered more than 75 miles from the retail location where the order was received. Delivery is not permitted in dry counties, but delivery vehicles may pass through dry counties. The law also prohibits delivery to any college or university residence hall.
Direct-to-consumer wine shipments
In addition to local liquor delivery, the Alabama legislature recently authorized wineries across the country to ship limited quantities of wine directly to consumers in Alabama. HB437 allows a licensed wine maker, in-state or out-of-state of Alabama, to ship wine to buyers in Alabama. Customers can purchase up to 12 cases of 9-litre wine per year from a winery.
Similar to the Liquor Delivery Act, there are guarantees for direct shipment of wine. Wine may not be shipped to a school, dormitory, jail, healthcare facility, locker, mailbox, warehouse, or any other premises authorized by the board. Only wineries, not retailers, can ship wine to consumers in Alabama. A distribution center cannot impersonate a retailer, but Alabama wineries can use distribution services that have obtained a wine distribution center license from the ABC board. Alabama is only the third state to require licensing, reporting and monitoring of fulfillment centers.
Wine sold and shipped directly to consumers in Alabama must be packaged in containers properly labeled to indicate alcohol content. The signature of a person aged 21 or over is required for delivery.
Licensees under both measures must pay license fees, keep detailed records of purchases, and file reports with the ABC Board and the Alabama Department of Revenue.
It is too early to know the final numbers on alcohol delivery and shipments since these laws came into effect in October. But there is every reason to believe that these laws together will represent a seismic shift in how Alabamians choose, obtain and consume alcohol in the years to come.
First, a number of alcohol delivery services have started operating in Alabama, announced their intention to do so, or have taken steps to become operational soon. Some of these services specialize in alcohol delivery (eg Drizly and Saucey) and others are well-known delivery services such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. These services already have much of the necessary infrastructure and should be able to implement alcohol delivery in a relatively short time.
The direct-to-consumer wine shipping law will likely affect fewer Alabamians than the liquor delivery law, but it’s a sea change for wine lovers. For years, oenophiles in Alabama have been frustrated with the lack of access to wines they couldn’t buy at their local grocery store or wine store. And even though it was allowed to ship wine from out of state to an ABC store (where a customer picked it up and paid a small amount of tax), many wineries considered Alabama a state. “without shipment” and refused to ship wine. in Alabama. The direct-to-consumer law should remove this barrier and open the Alabama market to a much wider range of wines.
© 2022 Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 25