Georgia's new alcohol delivery could generate millions of dollars for restaurants

Alcohol , COVID-19 , Government Affairs , Industry News ,

Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

With Georgia restaurants reeling amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a new alcohol-delivery law may provide a valuable revenue stream.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Aug. 3 signed HB 879 into law, allowing "certain retailers to make deliveries of alcoholic beverages." These retailers include restaurants, wine and beer shops, and package stores. Georgia's breweries and distilleries are not included in the law, which has not yet taken effect as state regulators work out the details of implementation.

The law is not a statewide blanket covering all restaurants. Local municipalities must adopt ordinances allowing restaurants to deliver packaged alcoholic beverages. Municipalities that have already approved take-out alcohol for restaurants are expected to adopt delivery. Only packaged beverages are covered by the law. Open containers and mixed cocktails are not currently permitted for take-out or delivery in Georgia.

Karen Bremer, chief executive officer of the Georgia Restaurant Association, estimates take-out and delivery alcohol could generate an extra $12 million in revenue per month for Georgia restaurants.

"We're saying this [law] was a win," Bremer told Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Some municipalities have not allowed restaurants in their jurisdiction to sell alcohol for take-out or delivery. Those legislators who are against the idea typically have been elected by voters who favor temperance, Bremer said. The GRA will continue to lobby in favor of take-out and delivery, making the argument that the services provide local governments with dollars that are needed more than ever and that "in modern society, the consumption of alcohol is not taboo."

Because breweries are not covered by the law, brewpubs that serve food and manufacture their own beer might not be able to offer alcohol delivery. Clarence Boston, co-owner of the forthcoming Hippin' Hops Brewery & Oyster Bar in East Atlanta, said his attorney is looking into the matter. While Boston has not yet received a firm answer, he is doubtful Hippin' Hops will be permitted to deliver booze.

"I don’t think we will be allowed to, but I hope so," Boston told the Chronicle.

More traditional purveyors of packaged alcohol have long pushed for delivery, according to 3 Parks Wine Shop owner Sarah Pierre, who plans to offer delivery as soon as she can. At a time when diners and drinkers are more interested in delivery, the service may give 3 Parks an uptick in sales, particularly in the short term due to the novelty.

"I spoke to a friend of mine who has delivery in another state, and he said the same thing," Pierre told the Chronicle. "He's like, in the beginning, it's going to be really busy. And then after a while you only get a handful of week. So I'm curious to see what it will be like."

Pierre said 3 Parks will partner with third-party delivery service Zifty to fulfill the shop's delivery orders. She does not anticipate moving the delivery operation in house anytime soon due to the corresponding expenses, such as the purchase of a delivery vehicle and higher workers' compensation and liability insurances. Pierre would consider ditching the third party only if delivery generates enough revenue to cover the cost.

"I just want to see what it looks like," Pierre said. "If it starts and it's gangbusters, then yeah, it's going to make a lot of sense for us to start maybe trying to do it on our own."