New Alcohol Delivery Service Laws

When restaurants had to pivot to takeout and delivery-only models, many lost up to 20-30% of their revenue just from alcohol sales. To help restaurants stay afloat, some cities and states began to relax or repeal their liquor laws to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold with to-go orders. Many states now allow some form of alcohol delivery, though the rules vary state by state.

Here’s what you should know about alcohol delivery laws in your area and how to abide by them.

Laws for Selling Alcohol Online for Restaurants By State

Most states are allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol and offer it with to-go orders in some capacity – only Montana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah gave a hard ‘no’ to businesses that don’t already have an off-premise liquor license, including wineries and breweries. 

The Foley Food and Wine Society has compiled a full list of resources by state so you can find the exact rules and restrictions you’ll need to abide by, but below are some examples of how new alcohol delivery laws look from the states and cities that were first to loosen their restrictions.

  • California Alcohol Delivery Laws: Beer, wine, and cocktails can be served. All alcohol for delivery and takeout orders must be accompanied by a food order and delivered with a secure lid or cap. Orders may not be delivered or picked up between 2:00-6:00 am and amounts are limited to 2.25 liters per consumer per day.
  • Chicago Alcohol Delivery Laws: Restaurants can serve bottled or canned beer and wine only for takeout orders, no delivery. Previous citywide restrictions on happy hour specials no longer apply.
  • Texas Alcohol Delivery Laws: All orders containing alcohol must be served with food and be given to the consumer in their original containers of 375 milliliters or less.
  • Washington, D.C. Alcohol Delivery Laws: Sales of beer, wine, and spirits are all allowed provided they are packaged in a sealed container and are accompanied by at least one prepared food item. Orders are not allowed between midnight and 7:00 am.
  • New York State Alcohol Delivery Laws: Beer, wine, and liquor may be sold in sealed containers that abide by the state’s open-container laws as long as it is accompanied by a food order. Any vehicle delivering alcohol, whether it’s in-house delivery or a third-party, must keep a copy of the restaurant’s liquor license on them.

New Alcohol Delivery Service Laws

The Benefits of Offering Alcohol for Delivery or Takeout at Your Restaurant

Bring Back Your Staff

Alcohol sales are a major revenue generator for most restaurants and adding those items onto your menu allows you to bring back some of your laid off or furloughed staff. Bring back your bartenders, sommeliers, or beer experts to help boost alcohol sales even more.

Money Isn’t Left Sitting on the Shelves

Your inventory is going to go bad eventually, leaving you to foot the bill for any unused alcohol, mixers, and garnishes you already have in stock. If you have stock that is in danger of turning and your state or city allows for alcohol sales try offering prix fixe menus, two-for-one sales, or happy hour specials to unload your stock.

Get Creative With Excess Kitchen Ingredients

Many restaurateurs that have said inventory is harder to manage than ever before as things become more unpredictable and susceptible to change. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be repurposed into cocktail mixers and garnishes, giving you some more wiggle room to use up your inventory.

Creative Ways to Offer Cocktails, Beer, and Wine for Delivery and Takeout That Abide By Alcohol Service Laws

Much of the reason why patrons love sitting at the bar is getting curated recommendations from expert bartenders. Here are a few ways we’ve seen restaurants and bars deliver a little bit of their in-house atmosphere to their guest’s homes.

Create Cocktail Kits

Dante – NYC

Dante is an award-winning bar, so they’re bringing the full craft cocktail experience into guest’s homes by offering cocktails, mixers, garnishes, and branded coasters. They’ve also custom made stickers with their logo that says “One for the road,” showing their sense of humor throughout a difficult situation.


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Offer Food and Beverage Pairings

Bywater – Warren, RI

Guests still value your recommendations, but without them being able to ask face-to-face, you’ll need to offer your expertise upfront. The folks at Bywater add a suggested wine pairing as a modifier on their online ordering system to help guide those looking for a suggestion.


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Create Virtual Happy Hours

Fortnight – Providence, RI

Another location bringing the in-house experience into guests’ homes is Fortnight, a cooperative employee-owned wine bar. They are offering virtual wine and beer nights for delivery or curbside pickup, curated by their expert staff. Patrons can buy bundles for 1-6 days of virtual bar experiences, some that include snack pairings of olives, fruits, cheeses, and more.


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Utilize Creative Packaging

Taco Co. – Benson, NE

Taco Co. was already making these Instagrammable adult juice pouches (reminiscent of everyone’s favorite lunchbox staple) to serve on their patio, so they’ve been unknowingly perfecting the portable cocktail for some time.


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Delivering Alcoholic Beverages to Your Guests Safely and Responsibly

As with in-house dining, you and your staff needs to be on top of checking IDs for both takeout and delivery orders that contain alcohol. It’s also important to remember not to overserve customers – just because they are less likely to get in a car and drive after drinking, it is still a possibility and a liability.

If your area allows for cocktail delivery, it will need to come in a sealed container, but that term means different things in each state so make sure you are abiding by your state and local guidelines and following the rules for selling alcohol online.

The popularity of online ordering is on a meteoric rise. How important is providing online ordering for your digital customers?

Download our Complete Guide to Online Ordering to start boosting profits with an online ordering solution today.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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