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Third-party alcohol delivery makes headway in Delaware legislature, home alcohol shipment stalls

Michele Abercrombie/NPR

Delaware’s State Senate passes a bill to allow third-party alcohol delivery, but direct-to-consumer (DTC) shipping legislation fails in committee.

State Sen. Jack Walsh’s (D-Wilmington) bill would allow delivery companies like Drizly, DoorDash and Uber Eats to transport limited quantities of wine, beer and mixed cocktails from restaurants, brewpubs and taverns to consumer’s doorsteps.

“This bill is a very consumer-friendly bill. It’s something that I know a lot of us have heard about and worked on situations and trying to find a solution to this and a path forward over the years – I think this gives us that path forward," Walsh said during the bill's consideration on the Senate floor.

If ultimately signed into law, vendors must be appropriately licensed and drivers 21 years and older must opt-in to alcohol delivery and be trained accordingly.

Walsh said while he hoped retailers would be on board with the bill, if it passes, only restaurants will be able to utilize the third-party delivery system.

While some Republican senators brought up concerns over determining the sobriety of the receiver as well as the bill's effect on business, it ultimately passed with bipartisan support 18-3.

Walsh's bill will now go to the House for consideration, but the latest version of a bill allowing direct-to-consumer alcohol shipment was voted down in committee last week.

Delaware is one of the last three states that does not allow some form of alcohol delivery or shipment along with Mississippi and Utah, although the Mississippi House cleared a bill this month that would allow DTC shipment of wine and spirits. It now moves to the state senate.

State Rep. Jeff Spiegelamn’s (R-Clayton) bill would allow limited quantities of craft beverages to be shipped from out-of-state and from in-state producers directly to homes in Delaware.

“This bill limits it to craft beverage producers only. So we’re not talking about the Gallo’s of the world, we’re not talking about the Annheuser-Busch’s of the world – we’re talking about the craft beverage industry," Spiegelman said.

In his defense of the bill, Spiegelman cited a survey of 500 state residents commissioned by the Delaware Wineries Association and conducted by the University of Delaware that found more than 85% respondents support DTC alcohol sales.

But lack of support from the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, the Teamsters and distributors lead to the majority of committee members voting against its release.

A representative from Teamsters Local 326 argued their workers, along with liquor stores and distributors, would all lose money under the legislation.

But representatives from Harvest Ridge Winery, Painted Stave Distilling and Twin Branch Winery all argued the bill will help them grow their local businesses.

"This bill is for small producers. It is not going to affect the distribution system that we have, it's not going to affect the Teamsters in the way that they're claiming, it's not going to affect the liquor stores," Twin Branch Winery Owner Shauna Thompson said. "The people who have tried our product and would like to have our product would like to be able to have us ship it to them, and the only way we can do that is through this bill."

While the committee ultimately voted not to release the bill, members expressed interest in re-hearing similar legislation if a compromise can be found to better support union workers.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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