Craving a cocktail? In Maryland, it could soon show up at your doorstep

These days, you can have practically anything delivered to your home. In Maryland, you might soon be able to add liquor to the list.

Coming out of the pandemic, dinner delivery has become particularly popular. You can have a meal brought to your door — via services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats — even when the restaurant itself doesn’t offer delivery.

Now, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow those same third-party entities to deliver alcohol direct from liquor stores, too.

The legislation got a hearing in Maryland’s State Senate Finance Committee in Annapolis. The bill is sponsored by Prince George’s County State Sen. Alonzo Washington, who told his colleagues on the committee “to align with the growing trend of delivery service, Maryland should take action to enable the alcohol industry to stay on pace and maintain its competitive edge in the retail industry.”

Speaking in favor of the bill was DoorDash’s Chad Horrell, who said that in other states that already allow this, “small, independent liquor stores actually saw 180% increase in sales in month six as compared to month one. That just kind of shows you how much the service is utilized. Total liquor store sales on the platform increased by 295%.”

Some of the state’s larger liquor stores already offer this service themselves in some jurisdictions, and Caitlin McDonough, who also testified on behalf of DoorDash, said this is profitable for not just smaller liquor stores that can’t offer this, but also the drivers working for DoorDash.

“Our Dashers, our deliverers, you know, similar to if you work in a restaurant that serves alcohol, earn much higher wages when they’re able to do this,” she said.

“Many of these small, mom-and-pop liquor stores want to grow and expand are often prevented from doing so because they have an inability to afford the cost of an in-house delivery person,” said Robert Melvin, who is with the D.C.-based R Street Institute.

“Permitting these businesses to partner with third-party delivery platforms can have an amplifying effect on their bottom line by creating new market access channels.”

He also said research shows it doesn’t lead to more drunken driving. But there was some skepticism expressed by one of Washington’s colleagues on the committee.

“It sounds like it’s more about the profit,” said State Sen. Ben Kramer, who represents part of Montgomery County. “And there is a distinct difference between alcohol and a hamburger.”

Kramer added that “sales skyrocket. That means a lot of alcohol is being delivered to people’s homes. And every single study ever done on the subject of alcohol availability, and all of the complications and problems that come with alcohol consumption, direct correlation, the more alcohol is available, the direct correlation to increased health consequences by virtue of that increased access.”

He also seemed unpersuaded when it was pointed out that third-party companies can already deliver cannabis products in Maryland.

During his testimony, Horrell explained to lawmakers that drivers who don’t want to make alcohol deliveries won’t have to, and strict ID compliance policies mean that buyers have to prove they’re 21 by scanning their ID through the mobile app at the time of purchase and then be ready to show their ID to the person making the delivery, too. Delivery drivers would also have to take the same alcohol training class that bartenders and servers have to.

“We’re hoping against hope that this Dasher is somehow trained and is not in a hurry to get on to delivering that next meal, and is also checking the sobriety of the person at the door to make sure they’re not intoxicated,” Kramer said.

“And we sincerely believe that’s exactly what’s going to happen, 10-11 o’clock at night at a dark doorway, Dasher, delivering alcohol, ready to go get a pizza to somebody else, is going to be doing an analysis as to whether the person there is intoxicated or not, has the same ID that was originally loaded up.”

Only one member of the public spoke out against the bill.

“Maryland spends almost $5 billion a year on alcohol-related harms,” said Dr. Raimee Eck, with the Maryland Public Health Association, referring to data that’s from 2010.

“If we extrapolate that to today’s dollars, that’s almost $7 billion or $3 per drink that’s just addressing the harms and compare that with the $350 million that we bring in taxes.”

If the bill passes, counties would have to opt in on their own to make it legal. A vote on the legislation will come in the committee later this session.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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