Ordering online for curbside pickup is a convenient way to buy groceries, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, unless you want beer in your bag.
Alcohol purchases must be made from inside the store, under current state law, said Dave Davis, president of the Utah Food Industry Association.
Store employees can bring everything from milk and carrots to soap and toilet paper to your car, he said. But when shoppers want beer, they have to go inside to buy it.
Home delivery of beer also is not allowed in the state.
The curbside sales ban first came to light several years ago, Davis noted, when Utah grocery stores started offering the “click and collect” online service for busy consumers.
Every year since, the association has asked the Utah Legislature to tweak the law. They’d like employees who deliver beer to customers — parked in designated areas a short distance from the store entrance — to be able to check ID to ensure it’s going to someone 21 or older.
“They could ID the same way the cashier does at the checkstand,” he said. “The only difference is that they would be ... in the parking lot.”
In Utah, grocery stores can sell beer up to 5% alcohol by volume. Stronger beer is sold in state-run liquor stores.
The problem has become more pronounced in recent weeks as Utahns have been encouraged to order online for pickup and delivery, hoping to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Retailers reached out to lawmakers again before two special sessions in April, Davis said, asking for a temporary change while stores deal with the pandemic. Gov. Gary Herbert also could address the issue through an executive order.
So far, there has been no response, Davis said. "Obviously, we haven’t made a ton of progress.”
Under the state’s current phased coronavirus guidelines, it would be simple to say curbside sales of beer are allowed during the more stringent, red, orange and yellow levels, Davis said. “And when the state moves to green, the allowance is rolled back.”
Confusing the issue, Davis added, is that some gas stations and convenience stores that have drive-up service are able to sell beer through the window.
Amid the coronavirus, several states have relaxed laws on alcohol purchases temporarily and are allowing curbside pickup and/or delivery of beer, wine and spirits, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.
The Utah Restaurant Association is seeking a similar change, asking if restaurants and bars can sell sealed bottles of wine or cans of beer — not cocktails to-go — when customers pick up food orders.