Permanent alcohol delivery possible in future

Lean Tate, an employee at Fluffy’s Liquor on Cache Road, rearranges boxes of alcohol at the store on Friday. A recent senate bill would allow Oklahoma retail spirit licensees to sell curbside and deliver alcoholic beverages, even after whenever the coronavirus quarantine period ends.

Thanks to the coronavirus, curbside pickup and delivery have become popular methods of transferring of goods in recent months. And while they had already existed in the food industry, curbside pickup and delivery have been relatively new ventures in the realm of alcohol. However, that could be changing.

Originally implemented as methods to adhere to social distancing and quarantine protocol during unique circumstances, pickup and delivery of alcoholic beverages could soon become legal in Oklahoma even after other restrictions are eventually lifted.

The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission began temporarily allowing alcohol delivery on March 24, and the measure was extended on April 17. It was set to expire this past Friday, May 15.

But Senate Bill 1928 would allow businesses holding a retail liquor license — including restaurants, bars, clubs, grocery stores and convenience stores — to continue delivery and curbside pickup of beer, wine and spirits in their original sealed containers to consumers of legal drinking age (21 years and older).

According to SB 1928, “Only employees of the retail spirit licensee shall be permitted to make alcoholic beverage product deliveries to consumers” and payment may be made by cash, check, credit/debit card or online payment methods.

The bill has recently been approved by the state Senate and House, and heads to Gov. Kevin Stitt for consideration. The bill has received support from liquor store and restaurant owners in other parts of the state, especially in the more heavily populated cities like Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And while several Lawton businesses have partaken in curbside pickup, the delivery aspect doesn’t necessarily excite local liquor store owners.

“To my knowledge, none of the businesses who sell liquor in Lawton have chosen to do this,” Katie Mustonen, manager of Fluffy’s Liquor Store, said. “We personally felt like this was super dangerous for our employees and did not want to rush into that.”

Mike O’Malley, general manager at Cache Road Discount Liquor, said the store tried delivery for a few days, but the number of orders did not make it worth the hassle.

“The thought was if we accrued about 10 deliveries, we could afford to waive some sort of delivery fee,” O’Malley said. “In the three-day span we did it, I think we had three or four orders.”

O’Malley said the business has done specialized deliveries to customers who are physically unable to leave their living quarters, and Mustonen said Fluffy’s has also made similar such exceptions. Both stores have done plenty of curbside pickups and both Mustonen and O’Malley said that is likely to continue if the bill should pass.

“If it gets us curbside, it’s not something we’re opposed to,” O’Malley said.

One aspect of the bill that could potentially hurt liquor stores is the fact that it allows grocery and convenience stores, as well as restaurants, to also deliver. Less than two years after a law was passed allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell more potent beer and wine, the Walmarts and 7-Elevens of the world could once again be obtaining some of the same advantages liquor stores have.

O’Malley said that he doubts Cache Road Discount Liquor, or many establishments for that matter, would have much need for delivery services post-quarantine, considering the low demand when customers were stuck at home. As for Mustonen, she believes Fluffy’s won’t do deliveries until some of the related risks are removed.

“I would need a system to keep my employees safer,” Mustonen said. “If they were to allow this longterm, I’d want to do this in the best way possible.”

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