Kansas lawmakers consider legalizing home delivery of alcohol
TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) - Would you like to have your next margarita from your favorite restaurant delivered to your couch? It could happen if some retailers have their way in changing state law.
From Walmart to DoorDash and Amazon, the story Wednesday at the Kansas statehouse was all about how Kansans want to be able to order anything from a six pack to their favorite mixed drink online and have it delivered to their door.
"If you're too busy or, sometimes like me, just plain lazy and you'd rather have your groceries, your food or a six pack of beer delivered to your house, we consider our Dashers to be the last link from that retail counter to your home," Michael Ruemmler with DoorDash told members of the Kansas Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs.
He and other industry leaders were talking about Senate Bill 253.
As proposed, the bill would require delivery drivers to take a special safety course and prove they're over the age of 21 to the company before they could bring you your alcoholic drink. The company would also have to pay an annual licensing fee of $1,500 to the State of Kansas.
This is the second try to get lawmakers to approve what are called third party deliveries. Wednesday the proposal came with some amendments to the original bill, trying to add more security protections to it.
Among the changes would be a requirement to make the delivery driver take a training course to qualify to make deliveries and make them responsible for making sure the person who ordered the alcohol isn't already drunk at the time of the delivery.
Supporters argued their methods are proven safe, after all, 44 other states have already legalized these kinds of alcohol deliveries.
"Since Covid, the third party delivery has increased, the online sales (have) increased and we anticipate that it will continue to increase. Right now we can only do food out of our restaurants. We hope after this sees some success that we'll be able to present our customers with everything they would like to offer and they can currently order both curbside and in our stores," said Scott Schneider with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.
They added home deliveries of alcohol would put more money in the pockets of everyone involved in the delivery. DoorDash alone quoted a 30% increase in pay for its drivers and a 50% increase in business for restaurants.
"The average liquor store on our platform last year saw liquor sales increase by over 180% in the sixth month compared to the first. And total liquor sales on DoorDash have grown 295% over the past year," Ruemmler said.
But opponents say the legal safety net in this proposal still has a lot of holes in it, from basic customer safety, such as making sure the customer is of legal age and not drunk at the time of the delivery, to personal and business data protection.
"You enter into a contract with one of these delivery services, they know what you're selling, they know who your customers are, they know what their proclivities are, how much they spend and so forth," said Whitney Damron with the Kansas Association of Responsible Liquor Laws. "They can target market them. They can move people from one retailer to another and you don't even know what's happened to your customer."
They also worry about national stores coming in and taking over local businesses financially, something they say they've already seen happen in those 44 states that have already legalized third party deliveries.
"Those store owners will tell you that they don't appreciate the fact that the highest cost that they have in the store and the hugest chunk out of their profit margin is now going to an entity who's not the licensee," said Amy Campbell with the Kansas Association of Beverage Retailers.
The only liquor store owners to testify were both against the idea.
"It's always people from out of state who want to come into our state and want to change our liquor laws and how we do business," said Aaron Rosenow who owns Verns Retail Liquor in Topeka. "Obviously I'm not a huge fan of that."
"We are very, very regulated," said Stacey Harlow who owns Twisted H Liquor in Hugoton. She pointed out that as she was driving to Topeka for Wednesday's hearing an agent of the Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) agency was inspecting her store. "And I don't see how this would be regulated as well as the liquor stores are."