Georgia House gives final OK to home delivery of beer, wine and liquor

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Grocery and liquor stores and some restaurants would be able to deliver beer, wine and booze to the front doors of their customers under legislation that won final approval in the Georgia House Thursday.

The measure won final passage 114-45 and now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his consideration.

The idea has been pushed in recent years by House Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell, R-Snellville, who called it part of the changing way Georgians shop.

More and more Georgians have their purchases delivered to their homes, and the coronavirus pandemic expanded the market as many have sought to avoid grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses in hopes of steering clear of COVID-19.

Some restaurants in metro Atlanta have already been delivering alcoholic beverages with food orders during the pandemic.

Harrell's legislation, House Bill 879passed his chamber before the General Assembly suspended the 2020 session in March because of the pandemic. When it returned earlier this month, he made passing the measure a priority.

Under the delivery bill, beer or wine couldn’t just be left on the front porch like Amazon deliveries. The delivery person would have to check IDs to make sure the buyer is old enough to purchase alcohol.

The measure would allow local municipalities to opt out of allowing alcoholic beverage delivery.

Whether restaurants could deliver would depend on local laws that govern their business.

Not everyone likes the bill.

While some liquor store owners told senators they wanted to be included in the delivery business, Stony McGill, a lobbyist for the Georgia Alcohol Dealers Association, said the 500 small stores he represents would be at a disadvantage because they are not set up with websites and a delivery system.

Harrell's original bill excluded liquor stores from being able to deliver liquor to customers, but Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, added them to the measure Monday, saying local retailers need help.

Religious groups have also traditionally opposed these kinds of bills.

“As usual, we have concerns about the expansion of the sale of alcohol,” said Michael Griffin, a lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, told a Senate panel last week. “Accessibility equals sales, sales equal consumption. The more you consume there is the potential there for problems.”

Final passage proved another major shift in the way the General Assembly has viewed the sale of alcoholic beverages.

"Twenty-five years ago just any bill was called a liquor bill and you'd have trouble passing it," said Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain. "We've changed a lot over the years."

For decades, Georgia had restrictive alcohol sales laws, and it took about five years of sessions for the grocery and convenience store lobbies to persuade the General Assembly to allow Sunday retail sales of beer, wine and liquor. The measure only passed in 2011 after Gov. Sonny Perdue, a religious conservative who opposed it, left office.

At the time, Georgia was one of only three states with a complete ban on Sunday alcohol sales at stores.