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Home and curbside alcohol deliveries in SC on the table again in 2024

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Home and curbside alcohol deliveries in SC on the table again in 2024

Dec 08, 2023 | 1:53 pm ET
By Jessica Holdman
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Home and curbside alcohol deliveries in SC on the table again in 2024
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A proposed change to South Carolina liquor laws would allow retailers to deliver wine, beer and liquor to customers' doorsteps along with their groceries. (Jessica Holdman / SC Daily Gazette)

COLUMBIA — A bi-partisan group of senators wants to let South Carolinians order alcohol delivered to their door with their groceries. But a vice-averse Republican is cutting them off.

Legislation allowing home delivery of beer, wine and liquor — as well as curbside deliveries for outside-the-store pick-up orders — advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the floor in March. Nothing has happened with it since, due to a senator’s objections.

Supporters say there’s a growing demand for the change as consumers become accustomed to the convenience of delivery and pickup services, especially after relying on them during the COVID pandemic.

Eula Boylston said it’s about accessibility.

Shopping at Green’s Beverages in downtown Columbia, Boylston said when she’s no longer able to drive herself to the store, she’d like the ability to have her favorite wines brought to her doorstep.

“The older I get, the happier I get with accessibility,” she told the SC Daily Gazette as she rolled her cart across the parking lot Thursday.

Sen. Scott Talley, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the legislation serves those like Boylston without removing regulatory guardrails.

Under the proposal, the state would license retailers to fill curbside pickup orders of beer, wine and liquor, as well as offer home delivery. Customers and delivery drivers would have to be at least 21. Stores could deliver only within the same or contiguous ZIP codes, a provision meant to protect small, locally owned businesses.

Several senators regularly seek to squash any type of alcohol-related legislation, Talley said. But the Spartanburg Republican is optimistic the bill, co-sponsored by nine other Republicans and three Democrats, will pass next year.

Senate rules allow a single senator to block legislation. In this case, that senator is Anderson County Republican Richard Cash. But there are others who would file an objection, should he remove his. Cash, R-Powdersville, did not return a call from SC Daily Gazette.

Talley said he believes there’s enough time to address concerns. But if objections aren’t voluntarily lifted, the other possibility would be placing it on special debate status through a supermajority vote — if enough senators want to take that step.

The proposal remains a top priority for South Carolina retailers. They started pushing for the option even before the global coronavirus pandemic made deliveries mainstream, said Krista Hinson, executive director of the South Carolina Retail Association.

Advocates include industry giants DoorDash, Shipt, Amazon and Total Wine & More.

Several of these companies have operated alcohol delivery services in other states. Their representatives have testified to senators how they already avoid delivering to people under 21.

More than 40 states allow some form of alcohol delivery, DoorDash lobbyist Chad Horrell told senators.

“We have the ability to look at how it’s been done legally and appropriately,” Talley said.

Home and curbside alcohol deliveries in SC on the table again in 2024
A customer tastes wines at Total Wine & More in Columbia on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. A proposed change to South Carolina liquor laws would allow the store to deliver wine, beer and liquor to customers’ doorsteps. (Jessica Holdman / SC Daily Gazette)

A temporary order

There was a one-year window in South Carolina when people could pick up beer and wine curbside for orders placed to restaurants, bars and stores. An executive order signed by Gov. Henry McMaster in 2020 amid his mandated temporary closures to in-person dining suspended state law barring alcohol sales to anyone in a vehicle. But that option went away once he lifted his pandemic emergency declaration.

“It worked without incident and without the concerns raised by some,” Talley said.

Hinson said her group had hoped that would serve as a catalyst for a permanent change. But all efforts to do so have failed so far.

“We feel pretty good about being able to keep the pressure on,” she said. “It’s an Issue that has tremendous public support.”

Supporters include Margo Habets, of Columbia, who called it an added convenience. She used grocery delivery services during the pandemic and has lived in states that allow alcohol in those orders.

“It’d be nice for when I’m cooking dinner and I’m like ‘Uh oh, I’m out of wine,” said Kimberly Light, who recently moved to South Carolina.

Lorenzo Boston, of Columbia, said he actually prefers going to the store instead of paying extra fees for delivery.

“I guess I’m old school,” he told the SC Daily Gazette, adding that he does not oppose the measure.

Not ‘ready for prime time’

But all of that does little to quell concerns for Sen. Dick Harpootlian, a Columbia Democrat who has long fought against the college party scene in the capital city’s Five Points neighborhood.

“You don’t know who all is in the house” receiving the delivery, he said. “I think it’s a bad idea.”

To Harpootlian, whose district includes Five Points, the proposal makes alcohol more accessible than if people must take the extra step of driving to the store to buy it.

He also doesn’t take as gospel testimony from corporate lobbyists that the practice has been safe in other states. He wants an independent analysis of what has and has not worked elsewhere.

“I just don’t think the bill is ready for prime time,” Harpootlian said.

A similar bill passed the House in 2021 with bipartisan support but died in the Senate last year without ever getting a floor vote.

If Talley’s bill doesn’t become last in 2024, a new bill will have to be introduced in 2025 for the process to start anew.