Beer Delivery to Your Home – Are We There Yet?

February 25, 2015
Aaron K. Zeamer

I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from clients recently about whether the law has changed allowing them to deliver alcohol to customers if they hold a valid liquor license.  This topic originated through a legal opinion issued by the Chief Counsel’s Office and as a result of a question by a licensee. The opinion generated some media coverage which has, in turn, created a lot of questions in the liquor sales industry.

There are still some questions as to how the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board will handle this, there are some parameters which have been outlined which could allow a bar restaurant to begin delivering alcohol to its customers.  It is important to keep in mind that if you choose to pursue this for your business, you should clearly understand and follow the guidelines in place. 

First, by just holding a valid liquor license, you are not automatically permitted to deliver alcohol.  It would be necessary for you to obtain a transport for hire license from the PLCB in order to deliver alcohol.  There are different classes of these licenses and, depending on what you serve and what you intend to deliver, it will affect which license you are going to need.  For the most part, if you are only delivering beer, a Class B license will suffice.  Second, you must comply with all of the additional regulations and requirements that accompany a transport for hire licensee.  Those include certain requirements for ownership of a vehicle, signage and lettering on the vehicle, and other recordkeeping requirements set out by the PLCB.

Second, the PLCB has also made clear that any sales must occur “on the licensed premises”.  That requires that any alcohol that is purchased for delivery be paid for over the phone via a credit card.  This would not prevent the delivery driver from getting a tip, since that’s a gratuitous payment and is not considered the sale of alcohol.

It is also important to note that the licensees are still responsible for compliance with all of the regulations and restrictions set out in the Liquor Code.  This pertains to sales to minors and to visibly intoxicated patrons.  It would be wise for any establishment looking to begin delivering alcohol to devise a system whereby they can confirm or coordinate that the person purchasing the alcohol is at least 21 and, upon delivery, the person receiving the alcohol is also 21 and not visibly intoxicated.  This potentially puts a significant amount of responsibility on the person who is making the delivery.  However, regardless of that person’s role, it is ultimately the licensee and the seller that bears responsibility to ensure compliance with the Liquor Code.

Whether alcohol delivery is a service and convenience which suits you and your business depends on a number of circumstances and your ability to monitor and accept the risk involved with this additional aspect of alcohol sales; however, under the right circumstances and with the right controls, this may be another added convenience which can be used to boost your sales and promote your product to the benefit of your business.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including Business Law and Liquor License matters.