Senate bill would create liquor licenses for grocery, other delivery services

Senate bill would create liquor licenses for grocery, other delivery services

Grocery delivery services have been on the rise nationwide. A bill in the General Assembly would allow consumers in Illinois to have distilled spirits delivered by a licensed vendor.

A bill in the Illinois Senate could soon make it easier for more retailers to let you add a fifth of rum to the bottle of cola in a home delivery order.

On Jan. 16, state Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, introduced Senate Bill 54, which would allow third-party grocery delivery services to obtain a state-issued liquor license in any Illinois community. The proposal would also prevent municipalities from imposing blanket bans on the services.

As the popularity of third-party grocery delivery services has continued to surge, local communities have differed in their approach to regulating the delivery of alcohol. The purpose of the bill is to ease the regulatory burden on retailers and third-party services navigating that maze of local liquor ordinances, Harmon said.

“I think by and large [third-party delivery companies] shouldn’t be having to see who can get this and who can’t,” Harmon said in an interview. “It seemed to me like we should have a statewide system to regulate this appropriately … we should have a statewide standard.”

Alcohol delivery services such as Drizly and Saucey have thrived in the Chicago area, for example, while St. Charles lifted its ban as recently as October 2018. Downers Grove allows the delivery of alcohol, but restricts it to the business hours of brick-and-mortar liquor stores.

Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University, still prohibits the delivery of liquor to residents’ homes. That could soon change, pending the outcome of a City Council vote. But Harmon’s bill would ensure regulatory consistency across all Illinois municipalities by simply instructing third-party delivery services to meet the state licensing requirements before making deliveries.

Some of those requirements include a $1,100 licensing fee as well as maintaining records involving the retail store, recipient and date of each delivery. The bill would also require delivery workers to verify that purchasers are at least 21 years old.

SB 54 would also apply to grocery retailers who offer their own delivery services, such as Foxtrot in Chicago. Naperville  hadn’t approved an alcohol delivery ordinance until the proprietor of Miss Kitty’s Saloon and Walker’s Charhouse raised the issue, according to the Daily Herald.

The bill could also help smaller grocers remain competitive in the industry’s fast evolving e-commerce landscape. While larger players such as Mariano’s and Amazon have entered the grocery delivery business, many smaller grocers and delis face restrictive economic and technological costs. Third-party delivery apps enable those smaller stores to overcome those barriers. For small-scale retailers reliant on liquor sales, SB 54 would offer a simple and transparent system of licensure.

In a May 2018 report, retail consulting service Brick Meets Click projected that online grocery delivery sales will grow at 10 times the rate of in-store checkout scans during the next five years.

Harmon wants to make sure Illinois is in a position to accommodate those rapid changes. “I recognized … there’s an emerging patchwork of regulations as more and more families depend upon grocery delivery in order to manage their time and family commitments,” he said. “The Jewel and Peapod shouldn’t be having to figure out who can get this and who can’t.”

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