NJ to allow alcohol deliveries to your doorstep

NJ to allow alcohol deliveries to your doorstep

How about a beer to go with that sandwich? Or a bottle of wine delivered with the pizza? Or maybe a bottle of Scotch delivered to your doorstep? Get ready to hit the speed dial.

The state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) on Friday adopted a special rule to allow bars, restaurants, and liquor stores in New Jersey to use third-party delivery services and bring booze right to the doorstep beginning this fall.

The rule creates the Third-Party Delivery Permit, which will allow liquor-serving establishments to contract with services like Door Dash, Instacart and Amazon Flex. Driver delivery services, which exploded during the pandemic, are now entering the highly regulated business of alcohol distribution.

“This is a game changer for New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage industry and a tremendous opportunity for growth,” ABC director James B. Graziano said. “We’ve worked diligently to craft a permit that serves as an economic stimulus for the industry while maintaining the integrity of New Jersey’s robust liquor laws. The Third-Party Delivery Permit includes appropriate safeguards to ensure orderly, verifiable and accountable deliveries of alcoholic beverages.”

Gov. Phil Murphy applauded the rule as a step forward in a consumer world that is changing fast due to technology. The governor said safety will be the top priority.

“Opening the door to allow for third-party services to deliver alcoholic beverages to New Jersey residents will allow our local businesses to adopt to the everchanging world of technology and e-commerce,” Murphy said. “Safety is a key element of this ruling; We want to make sure that those involved in delivering and receiving these products are authorized to do so. As we continue with the COVID-19 economic recovery, we must continue to take steps to evolve and adapt to our new normal.”

To qualify for a Third-Party Delivery Permit, an applicant must submit a formal agreement with a retail licensee and an agreement with the delivery worker. The delivery worker must undergo both a background check that includes criminal history and a driving record.

The driver is also responsible for ensuring that the person receiving the alcohol is 21 years old — the driver is also supposed to refuse a customer who is underage or visibly intoxicated, according to the ABC. Establishments will not be allowed to deliver alcohol to college campuses, the ABC said.

Permits will cost $2,000, the division said.

The ABC, with its draconian liquor laws that date to the Prohibition Era, has been under enormous pressure within the industry to update its regulations. Old-time establishments with expensive liquor licenses have been pressing the ABC to rein in the state’s fast-growing brew pub industrywhich operate with much cheaper licenses and have become popular hangouts.

Last month, the ABC allowed a set of restrictions on breweries that had been suspended during the pandemic to take effect. One of the harshest restrictions limits breweries to holding only 25 special events and 52 private parties a year, which they believe will cripple their business.

Currently, ABC regulations permit only licensed retailers and transporters to deliver alcoholic beverages in New Jersey. Brew pubs are allowed to make deliveries under an executive order that the governor enacted during the COVID emergency, but that privilege will ultimately expire, and the industry is hoping for legislation to make it permanent.

It remains to be seen how popular booze delivery will be. Delivery services tack on a fee as a percentage of the transaction, which people are willing to pay when they’re hungry. But whether adding another $5 to a bottle of wine will work with consumers, only time will tell.

Diane Weiss, of the Licensed Beverage Association, said many restaurants introduced home delivery for food during the pandemic, so it makes sense to allow them to send a bottle along with the meal.

“It’s an added enhancement,” she said. “But the onus will bee on the driver to make sure they are delivering to someone who is over 21.” There are about 7,500 establishments statewide that have consumption licenses that allow them to serve drinks on the premises, she said.

Brewers don’t see the new rule as a huge tilt in the competitive playing field.

“I don’t see this hurting breweries as long as the state passes a law to allow brewery home delivery to remain in effect permanently,” said Scott Wells, the owner of Bolero Snort Brewery and Tasting Room in Carlstadt and a board member of the Brewers Guild of New Jersey.

“The fact of the matter is, we’d love it if these bars, restaurants and liquor stores were selling our beers through Uber Eats, but the reality is, they’ll be selling big beer and beer made out of state.”

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Richard Cowen may be reached at [email protected].

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