Demand for alcohol delivery in Georgia highlighted by coronavirus

Georgians can’t get alcoholic beverages delivered to their homes by local retailers even while under a statewide shelter-in-place order. That may change once Georgia is no longer in a state of emergency and the Legislature can reconvene.

House Bill 879, allowing beer and wine to be delivered from retailers to residents, passed the Georgia House of Representatives on March 12, the last day it met before the session was suspended. In order to become law, it still needs to pass the Georgia Senate and be signed by Gov. Brian Kemp. Weeks of self-isolation without a way to get a six-pack delivered may sway some senators, sponsoring Rep. Brett Harrell said.

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“It’s obviously a tragic situation we’re in with COVID-19, but it’s obviously demonstrating the desire for the bill,” said Harrell, a Snellville Republican. “It’s a terrible way to demonstrate that, but perhaps when we come back, the Senate will have heard from their constituents and realized there’s a demand not just in a situation like we’re in now, but year-round.”

The bill would allow beer and wine to be delivered from grocery stores and convenience stores directly to customers. Third-party apps that let customers pick what they want purchased and delivered would also be allowed. Liquor is not included in the bill, so Georgians would still be unable to get a bottle of vodka or bourbon sent to their home.

Grocery delivery services like Instacart and Shipt have seen increased demand overall since the coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay at home. The companies deliver alcohol in states where it is legal, a list that does not include Georgia.

Instacart has seen demand for alcohol increase alongside groceries, and the number of orders containing alcohol increased 75% in the month of March. The company supports HB 879 and would be able to include beer and wine in grocery orders if it became law.

Before coronavirus brought the legislative session and many elements of everyday life to a standstill, significant demand for alcohol delivery already existed in Georgia, Harrell said. One delivery company recorded more than 400,000 requests for service in Georgia that they had to deny in 2019 because of state laws, he said.

Many cities in Georgia have allowed restaurants and bars to sell unopened alcoholic beverages to go due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing restaurants to close dining rooms. That, combined with the experience of self-isolating and not necessarily being able to pick up a bottle of wine whenever you want, could bolster support for the bill once the legislative session resumes, Harrell said.

“It could be a small silver lining to a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Harrell said.