FILE - alcohol

Wine on display a liquor store.

Louisiana stores and restaurants could be delivering alcohol to consumers by next month.

“It’s our intent to do this sooner rather than later,” said Ernest Legier, deputy commissioner with Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

Lawmakers legalized the practice during this year’s session, and ATC is writing the regulations that “put meat on the bones” of the legislation, Legier explained. He expects the rules to be ready within 30 days or so.

Legislators will need to approve the regulations, but ATC will be able to issue temporary permits as soon as their proposed rules are ready. If lawmakers don’t call for changes, converting to a permanent permit will be a mere formality.

“There is a great amount of interest and demand for this service,” Legier said.

While there are a number of legal limitations, the biggest concern is preventing underage access to alcohol, he said. Deliveries are only allowed within a limited radius and are banned on college campuses and in jurisdictions where alcohol sales are not otherwise legal.

Stores and restaurants that want to deliver will apply for new permits. ATC also will create a new permit for third-party companies that do marketing and delivery on behalf of those businesses.

Under Louisiana law, the person making the delivery, whether they work for a brick-and-mortar retailer or a third party, must be a direct employee, not a contractor. During the session, at least one legislator worried about creating a monopoly because Lafayette-based Waitr is thought to be the only third-party service in the state with direct-employee deliverers. Legier could not confirm this is the case, though Waitr’s CEO says it is.

“We fought strenuously for this legislation from the very beginning, as our top priority is seeing our restaurant partners flourish and alcohol delivery will help increase sales for our partners,” said Waitr CEO Chris Meaux in an emailed statement. “Waitr is in a unique position to serve our customers and restaurants, as this new legislation only allows deliveries from drivers who are employees of companies as are Waitr drivers to complete such deliveries.”

Jessica Elliott with the Louisiana Retailers Association said the organization was disappointed with the prohibition on delivery companies that use contractors.

“This prohibition will likely limit the options that Louisiana businesses will have in choosing a third-party delivery company partner,” she said.

Lawmakers who supported the contractor carve-out said they wanted to make sure the lines of responsibility and liability for deliveries are clear.

Drizly, which currently operates in more than 100 cities, is another third-party company that expects to work in Louisiana. Drizly doesn’t deliver, but they partner with retailers to provide an online platform for sales and marketing.

“We think retailers are well-suited for making deliveries,” said Jaci Flug, Drizly’s vice president of legal, regulatory and industry affairs.

Counting Louisiana, 25 states and Washington, D.C. allow delivery of all types of both high- and low-content alcoholic beverages, according to Drizly, while seven allow for delivery of beer and wine only. Flug called Louisiana’s law “forward-thinking,” based in part on recommendations of an e-commerce task force established by the legislature

“The fact that you now have, in the Louisiana code, words referencing the internet for a body of law that was passed after prohibition, that’s a pretty big deal,” she said.

Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.