Online liquor ordering and curbside beer pickup would become legal in Utah if lawmakers sign off
Consumers would have to identify themselves personally before purchasing.
Two consumer-friendly services currently banned in Utah – roadside beer pickup and liquor ordering online – could go legal under a bill released in Legislature this week.
HB371, a total alcohol initiative sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, addresses the 21st century convenience that consumers have been demanding, especially during the pandemic.
If approved, roadside beer pickups from grocery stores are permitted as long as the retailer does not process the payment before verifying that the customer is “the customer who placed the order” and that they are 21 years or older .
Under current law, grocery store employees can bring anything from milk and carrots to soap and toilet paper to a car for roadside pickup in a car. But if buyers want beer, they have to go in to buy it. The restriction was put in place to prevent underage buyers from buying alcohol.
The roadside sales ban first became known a few years ago when grocery stores in Utah offered an online “Click and Collect” service for busy consumers. However, over the past 11 months, the problem has worsened as Utahns have been asked to order online for pickup and delivery in hopes of avoiding the spread of COVID-19.
With that in mind, the newly introduced invoice would also allow customers to place an online order with a licensed distillery, brewery, or winery.
According to the measure, the manufacturer is not allowed to process the payment until the customer arrives for collection and an employee determines that “the customer has placed the order” and that this person is of legal age to buy alcohol.
Ordering online would not apply to Utah state liquor stores or smaller “package dealers” that operate on a contract basis in rural areas.
The bill has not yet been submitted to any committee for discussion.
The problem of home delivery of alcohol is also not addressed. This convenience is likely to remain illegal in the beehive state for the foreseeable future.
In the midst of the coronavirus, several states have temporarily relaxed alcohol purchase laws and allow roadside beer, wine, and liquor pick-up and / or delivery, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. In Utah, grocery stores can sell beer up to 5% alcohol by volume. Stronger beer is sold in state liquor stores.
Another point that HB371 doesn’t address is Utah’s lack of cash licenses.
The state currently has nine companies pending cash licenses, but the next permit won’t be available until April. Business owners, as well as members of the state alcohol commission, say the delay could be fixed if lawmakers cut the population now in the state code. Currently, Utah can have one bar for every 10,200 residents.
HB371 – which is 83 pages long – makes some other changes to the state alcohol code, such as:
• Allow hotels built within a “community reinvestment project area” to qualify for state alcohol permits – even if they are near a school, church, or other community location. This provision is specifically intended to help build the 26-story convention center in downtown Salt Lake City. It does not meet current legal distance requirements. The hotel qualifies as long as the bars, restaurants and other areas for selling liquor are on the upper floors and not accessible from the street.
• Change the definition of a “small brewer” and create a tiered premium for independent producers – such as Uinta Brewing Co. – who produce between 40,000 and 60,000 barrels of beer each year.