2 lawmakers urge Utah to allow curbside, home delivery of beer during coronavirus

Utah shoppers can have everything from milk and carrots to laundry soap and toilet paper delivered to their homes or available for curbside pickup at grocery stores.

The only exception: beer.

That rule, argue Sen. Derek Kitchen and Rep. Joel Briscoe, needs to change during the coronavirus pandemic.

The two Salt Lake City Democrats sent a letter recently to Gov. Gary Herbert urging him to suspend the state law temporarily and “allow customers to purchase alcoholic beverages that are available at grocery stores, through curbside pickup and home delivery.”

It’s one more way to protect those trying to stay safe during the coronavirus, the letter states.

”With the recent, alarming case counts,” the letter adds, “Utahns should be able to safely shop for all available items of their choosing without risking their health.”

Herbert is scheduled to meet with legislative leadership Tuesday, and the topic could be discussed at that time.

Ordering online for curbside pickup has been a convenient way to buy groceries, especially during the pandemic.

While store employees can deliver groceries to a car, doing so with beer, under current statute, is forbidden. Shoppers who want that item must go inside the store to buy it.

Home delivery of beer also is not allowed.

Briscoe wrote in a post on Twitter that constituents reached out about the problem. One man said that “at 85 years of age he appreciated having his groceries delivered. Why not his beer? We want older Utahns to stay home if they can. Let’s help them.”

Amid the pandemic, 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.

Utah has eased some rules, too. Last month, for example, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control permitted bars and restaurants to apply for a “temporary outdoor extension of their premises” so they can serve alcohol on makeshift patios — through October — to boost their seating footprint and allow for social distancing.

The ban on curbside beer sales first came to light several years ago, when Utah grocery stores started offering the “click and collect” online service for busy consumers.

Every year since, the Utah Food Industry Association has asked the Legislature to tweak the law. The stores, they say, still would be required to check ID to ensure beer is going to someone 21 or older — just like the cashier does at the checkout counter.

Confusing the issue is that some gas stations and convenience stores with drive-up service are able to sell beer through the window.

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.

This past weekend, the owner of Quarters Arcade Bar in Salt Lake City was pushing for more flexibility to Utah liquor laws on the bar’s Facebook page, saying “to-go cocktails” as well as less expensive alcohol measuring systems and drink specials — aka happy hours — are “three things that would help my business weather this storm.”