By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Homebody drinkers, rejoice.
The Georgia Senate passed legislation Tuesday allowing restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses licensed to sell alcohol to make home deliveries of beer and wine in Georgia.
Senate passage of House Bill 879, sponsored by Rep. Brett Harrell, comes after many Georgians clamored for alcohol deliveries amid recent stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
It cleared the Senate by a 49-9 vote and now heads back to the state House of Representatives.
Grocery stores would include the upscale Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon and would be able to utilize the internet sales giant’s online vending platform, Senate lawmakers confirmed at a committee hearing last week.
Liquor stores would also be allowed to make deliveries after Senate lawmakers pushed through an amendment to the bill late Tuesday permitting them to do so. Backers of that change said letting liquor stores join the delivery bunch would help many mom-and-pop businesses keep afloat.
Deliveries could only be made by retailers or third-party vendors who are licensed to drive in Georgia, are at least 21-years-old and have completed training on proper deliveries. Recipients would have to show photo ID and sign off for a delivery when it’s brought to their homes.
Businesses making deliveries would also need to follow any local rules that counties and cities have on alcohol sales, including purchase hours and whether restaurants can serve adult beverages. If the bill is passed into law, local governments could still move to ban alcohol deliveries in their own communities.
The measure by Harrell, R-Snellville, comes as restaurants and other food-service businesses in Georgia continue reeling from the economic fallout of coronavirus, which spurred many restaurants to close or lay off workers.
Karen Bremer, chief executive officer of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said at a hearing last week the state’s restaurant industry had lost more than $4.8 billion in sales over the past 15 weeks and saw more than 300,000 restaurant workers lose their jobs.
She called for passage of the deliveries bill to help restaurants recover.
“I think it’s a great piece of legislation,” Bremer said. “It takes care of a lot of issues.”
Kathy Kuzava, president of the Georgia Food Industry Association, also praised the measure last week. She noted grocery stores have seen their delivery sales increase in recent years but particularly since the pandemic took hold, during which some grocers reported deliveries had doubled.
“You are making a lot of customers and retailers happy in the state,” Kuzava said. “Your constituents will be very, very pleased.”
Not everyone has cheered the bill. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board came out against it on grounds it could increase alcohol consumption in the state.
“This is not the expansion of Coca-Colas and Pepsis,” said Mike Griffin, a lobbyist for the board. “This is a different type of beverage.”