Avalanche of comment delays alcohol shipments bill

Jarek RutzGovernment, Headlines


So many people wanted to comment on a bill that that committee vote was delayed on a bill that would allow alcohol delivery to homes. Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko/Pexels.

A lengthy discussion in the state legislature Tuesday led to a delay in a bill allowing direct-to-consumer alcohol shipments.

House Bill 259, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Townsend-Clayton, would allow farm breweries, microbreweries and craft distilleries to conduct direct-to-consumer sales of wine, beer, spirits, mead and hard cider.

Spiegelman’s bill also would allow state liquor stores to conduct home deliveries, while requiring the licensing and training of delivery workers, and mandating that those receiving the order are identified and at least 21 years old.


Jeff Spiegelman

In the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee meeting, Spiegelman pointed out that 98% of the country’s population is able to get alcohol to their door in some fashion, either shipping or delivery. Only Delaware, Mississippi, and Utah outlaw the process.

“This is meant for the small guy, this is meant for the small business owner,” he said. “This isn’t really meant for the big guys.”

The bill had a ton of support, but because there were so many that testified in the public comment portion – including local alcohol distributors and breweries/wineries – the committee decided to continue the discussion at their meeting next week before voting whether to release the bill to the entire House.

Spiegelman’s bill is part of the ongoing spirit of Delaware legislation to modernize shopping habits and allow for an easier process for consumers to obtain their alcohol from the comfort of their home.

RELATED: Another alcohol bill kicks off this year’s General Assembly

There’s four other alcohol-related bills that have recently circulated in the legislature.

One has already sailed through the General Assembly and have been signed into law by Gov. John Carney.

That would be House Bill 235, sponsored by Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, which allows any individual or business with an alcoholic liquor license to sell at 8 a.m., an hour earlier than the current law of 9 a.m.

More alcohol bills

The others, all sponsored by Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek are:

  • House Bill 221 would remove the requirements for alcoholic liquor to be sold with a purchase of food that costs at least ten dollars, or to be in ice cream containing up to 10% alcohol by volume. It also would allow restaurants and brewery-pubs to stop selling full meals to patrons before the current requirement of 9 p.m.
  • House Bill 222 would mandate that the Delaware Alcoholic Beverage Control commissioner directs an investigation to the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement for an independent investigation after 25 complaints from residents who reside within one mile of a licensed establishment that sells alcohol. The complaints would need to be for a violation of statutory or regulatory requirements. If an investigation finds the complaint credible, and a hearing is necessary, the signatories of the petition will also be provided notice of the hearing and given an opportunity to appear and provide an impact statement.
  • House Bill 266 would amend a technicality and would allow the state alcohol commissioner to declare a business including live music with or without the use of PA systems, and to include external speakers for “piped-in” or pre-recorded music as a “substantive change” to an alcohol license application.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Spiegelman offered data on a Delaware survey, showing that 85.6% of Delawareans support the ability to legally order alcohol and have it shipped by UPS or FedEx.

That number rises to 93.1% for people that have at least one drink a month.

“This is a service that Delawareans are demanding and have been demanding for decades,” he said.

Customers would have to show proper identification to prove that they are 21 and older.

“For us legislators in the room, wouldn’t it be great if you had a bill that had 93.1% of your constituents agree on?” he said.

He said the bill creates a mechanism for legally obtaining an item that, as adults, should be allowed to legally obtain.

He also pointed out that this service is available for other items such as prescription drugs and tobacco.

For example, on delivery apps like DoorDash or GoPuff, someone could buy a pack of cigarettes or something that requires them to be of age, while still having to show ID, sometimes having to scan their ID, once the delivery person arrives.

The argument that this will create an uptick in underage drinking if false, Spiegelman argued.

Jacqueline Paradee Mette, Delaware’s alcohol commissioner, said she is concerned about the shipment of distilled spirits to residential doors. This is something only six other states permit.

Committee chair Rep. Bill Bush, D-Dover, said this was surprising to him, as it was his impression from the bill that Delaware was a huge outlier and behind the norm.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Local 326 said the union opposes the bill.

“It’s become even more complicated now that they’ve added beer and spirits and as well,” said the man, who did not identify himself. “As one of our first things is we do represent the warehouseman and the drivers in the industry for the four largest distributors in the state of Delaware. They deliver in excess of 90% of the alcoholic liquor.”

He said his drivers get paid by the case, so every one less case that comes off of their trucks will impact the pay of all the union’s drivers.

He pointed out that FedEx is not a union carrier and his group does not represent them.

Terry Byrne, Eastern counsel for Wine Institute, which is a trade association of California wineries, said she support the bill, but has concerns over if large wineries would be able to carry a license to deliver under the bill, because it is not clear.

She also would like to see the bill not limit shipments to just local wineries, and suggested adding even international wineries.

A local male winemaker at a family farm winery said he was in support, and said the bill enables local wineries to be competitive and will help grow small businesses.

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