State to permit alcohol delivery to your door

ABC announces provisions in which 3rd-party suppliers (think DoorDash) can bring beer, alcohol (even cocktails) to residents

A burger and a beer … pasta and wine … fajitas and margaritas … all brought to your door.

All this is coming soon in New Jersey.

On Friday afternoon, acting Attorney General Matt Platkin announced that the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control had issued a special ruling that allows third-party delivery services — companies such as DoorDash, Instacart and Amazon Flex — to deliver alcoholic beverages (including cocktails) from restaurants, bars and liquor stores to customers’ doorsteps.

The state said it is “opening a new frontier for growth in New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage industry,” one that “ushers in a new era of modern technology and e-commerce in New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage industry that benefits businesses and customers, while maintaining safety and preserving the legislative intent of the 89-year-old Alcoholic Beverage Control Act that established the state’s alcohol distribution system.”

The permit allows delivery services to enter formal agreements with restaurants, bars and liquor stores to make deliveries on their behalf.

Among other safety provisions, those permitted to make deliveries will not be allowed to leave alcohol unattended at a delivery site, deliver alcohol to those who are intoxicated (it’s unclear how they will make that judgment) or bring it to any college campus.

An application for a third-party delivery permit will be available exclusively on the licensing system of the ABC, beginning Oct. 1. It’s unclear how long it will take for applications to be processed and for delivery service to begin.

The concept, however, has the full support of Gov. Phil Murphy.

“Opening the door to allow for third-party services to deliver alcoholic beverages to New Jersey residents will allow our local businesses to adapt to the everchanging world of technology and e-commerce,” he said. “Safety is a key element of this ruling; we want to make sure that those involved in delivering and receiving these products are authorized to do so. As we continue with the COVID-19 economic recovery, we must continue to take steps to evolve and adapt to our new normal.”

ABC Director James Graziano also gave the idea his full support.

“This is a game-changer for New Jersey’s alcoholic beverage industry and a tremendous opportunity for growth,” he said. “We’ve worked diligently to craft a permit that serves as an economic stimulus for the industry while maintaining the integrity of New Jersey’s robust liquor laws. The Third-Party Delivery Permit includes appropriate safeguards to ensure orderly, controlled, verifiable and accountable deliveries of alcoholic beverages.”

Currently, ABC regulations permit only licensed retailers and transporters to deliver alcoholic beverages in New Jersey. The Third-Party Delivery Permit, which carries an annual cost of $2,000, will allow independent contractors using their personal vehicles (without transit insignia) to deliver alcoholic beverages to customers’ residences on behalf of New Jersey retail licensees. They will be able to charge a fixed fee for their delivery services.

The permitting process comes through collaboration with alcoholic beverage industry entities such as the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, New Jersey Liquor Store Alliance and participants in the third-party delivery sector.

In order to qualify for a third-party delivery permit, an applicant must submit a method of operation as part of the application process that describes in detail operating protocols, including procedures for:

  • Conducting initial and recurring background checks of delivery workers, including criminal history and driving record;
  • Providing alcohol-compliance training and certification to delivery workers who are eligible to deliver alcoholic beverages;
  • Verifying that receiving customers are of legal age and not visibly intoxicated;
  • Refusing delivery and returning alcoholic beverages to retail licensee when necessary, such as when a customer is underage or intoxicated, refuses to sign for the delivery or there is there is reason to suspect the customer is accepting delivery on behalf of an underage person.

Additionally, an applicant must submit a sample formal agreement with a retail licensee as well as a sample formal agreement with a delivery worker. A Third-Party Delivery Permittee will be required to have formal agreements with retail licensees and delivery workers before any deliveries are made.

Delivery rules

Here are the rules in place for third-party alcohol delivery. A permittee will be responsible for ensuring that its delivery workers comply with its approved method of operation and the permit’s conditions and restrictions, including the following prohibitions:

  • Leaving alcoholic beverages unattended or storing alcoholic beverages overnight;
  • Subcontracting a delivery of alcoholic beverages;
  • Delivering alcoholic beverages to customers who are actually or apparently intoxicated or under the legal age to purchase or consume alcohol; and
  • Delivering alcoholic beverages to the campus of any college or university.

Only restaurants, bars, and liquor stores — which operate under retail licenses that have statutory privileges to sell and deliver alcoholic beverages for off-premise consumption — have the option of using the services of a Third-Party Permittee.

Currently, businesses operating under manufacturing licenses — such as craft breweries and distilleries — do not have statutory delivery privileges and therefore cannot use the services of a third-party delivery permittee.

Platkin said the ruling comes out of the wake of the pandemic, when delivery of goods became a more regular part of life for a greater number of people.

“The demand for delivery services exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the third-party delivery permit expands that market in New Jersey and allows retail licensees to tap into it,” he said.

“This new permit strikes a balance that has been the hallmark of the Murphy administration to continue innovation and growth in business but without sacrificing or jeopardizing public safety. This is also a boon for consumers who have grown accustomed to using smart phone delivery apps to order everything from groceries to gourmet meals.”