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Thirsty for delivery? La. task force vetting alcohol-at-your-door service

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Louisiana customers craving wine or beer could be able to order the drinks from their homes, if state lawmakers green-light alcohol deliveries during next year's legislative session.

The Louisiana Retail Food and Beverage E-Commerce Task Force met Thursday to discuss whether the state should widen online availability of alcoholic drinks. The panel heard from representatives with the California-based Instacart food delivery service and the Massachusetts-based Drizly alcohol delivery company.

"In Louisiana, you can get a daiquiri through a drive-thru, but you can’t get beer, wine or spirits responsibly delivered to your door," said Drizly co-founder Justin Robinson.

Supporters point to a growing digital economy, as anchored by apps like Uber, AirBnB and Grubhub. Drizly operates in more than 70 North American markets, including New Orleans.

"Consumers are looking for a more at-home demand," said Jessica Starns, a lobbyist for Instacart. "This is a good way for restaurants and grocery stores to be able to compete in the e-commerce marketplace and keep that business local."

Defenders also cite the safety of purchasing alcohol from home, as opposed to driving to and from a bar.

"It may be even safer," Starns said. "We’re not going to have drunk people out on the road to get alcohol. They can just get it brought to them."

Efforts to expand alcohol deliveries in Louisiana dried up earlier this year. In May, the state’s House Judiciary Committee killed two bills meant to permit online orders of closed-container beverages. Purchases of open drinks, cocktails or pre-filled glasses would not have been allowed under the legislation, and customers would have also been required to purchase food with their orders.

Task force members said Thursday that if any alcohol delivery proposal were to pass in the 2019 legislative session, it would need additional guidelines. Panelists recommended blocking orders to dry parishes, schools and public parks, as well as limiting the role of third-party delivery services.

"How do we, as lawmakers, balance the ability for the consumer to receive this product and not jeopardize public safety?" said Rep. Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport) "That’s a big charge for us to figure out."

"We need to make sure we have regulations in place," said state Revenue Secretary Kimberly Lewis Robinson. "It’s to ensure that we don’t allow sales to underage minors and enduring that we’re protecting the public in allowing that delivery."

Members of the beverage panel will meet again Jan. 10 to discuss potential legislation. The task force must send its recommendations and findings to the Legislature by Mar. 1.

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