Maryland legalized expanded alcohol deliveries … sort of

Among the new laws that took effect in Maryland this week is one that allows third-party delivery companies to bring beer, wine and liquor right to your home. It catches Maryland up with Virginia and D.C., which already allow mobile apps, such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, to hit the liquor store for you.

But what’s as easy as pressing a few buttons on your smartphone in other places is not so easy in Maryland. In fact, while you can say it’s legal, it’s also not actually legal, yet.

For one, the state still has regulations and permits it needs to approve to those companies before they can start delivering. After that, each individual county has to decide if they want to allow it.

Representatives from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties say they aren’t in any rush to do that right now. DoorDash acknowledges the hope is that this is up and running around Maryland within the next few months, with the belief that it will pay off in a lot of ways.

Chad Horrell with DoorDash said the company has seen a 180% increase in liquor store sales over a six-month period in states that have enacted similar laws.

“Now, that’s them ramping it up, but it provides their customers an alternative way to purchase alcohol from them,” he said.

At least in some cases, it also keeps someone off the road when they aren’t in the condition to drive safely. And it pays off for the delivery driver, too.

“Dashers see north of a 20% increase in the earnings that they get per delivery,” Horrell said. “And consumers want the convenience, or else the service would not be there.”

At least a handful of stores in Prince George’s County already deliver, including Riverdale Park’s Town Center Market, which started doing deliveries during the pandemic. Owner Jimmy Spiropoulos said, right now, they only do a handful of deliveries every day. But at the same time, this week he also expanded his delivery radius from 5.5 miles to 10 miles.

“It seems everybody wants the convenience. … The Amazon Effect is what we call it,” said Spiropoulos. “So, yeah, it’s been good for us. And not a huge part of what we do. But definitely something that we are cognizant about, that we better be ready if and when we need to get a bigger presence.”

But as often as he gets deliveries to his own home, he concedes there are some parts of this trend that concern him.

“How do you get new products and impulse buys that you miss out on if the customer is not here, coming up to the counter to purchase things?” he asked.

As for anyone who thinks they’ll use the delivery service to avoid being carded because they aren’t 21, Spiropoulos said that hasn’t happened at his store. And drivers aren’t able to just leave a purchase on the front step of a home — they have to physically hand it over to someone who is of legal drinking age.

In the same vein, DoorDash is adamant that there are ways to be sure that someone under 21 isn’t able to use the app to make a purchase, which includes requiring a copy of someone’s license to be uploaded into the system. Both the Dasher as well as the mobile app also carry liability if someone under 21 is served and something happens.

“That’s the risk that they’re taking on,” Horrell said. “And that also goes into the motivation for them to not turn that alcohol over to somebody who is not verified.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story quoted a DoorDash representative saying the company has seen a 600% increase in liquor store sales over six months in states that have enacted laws similar to Maryland’s. In fact, the correct figure is 180%, the company says. 

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2024 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

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.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up