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Alcohol

Ending liquor monopoly in Ontario would be win-win-win

Rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money

Ontario is teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff. Under its previous Liberal government, the province became the most indebted sub-sovereign unit in the world. Unfortunately, poor policy-making and the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened its situation. Ontario’s debt is now over $404 billion, which means each Ontarian’s share of that debt is a whopping $27,000.

As the pandemic ends, Ontario will need bold policy-making to dig itself out of the hole it’s in. One bold policy that would help is privatizing the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), or at a minimum capping its expansion and ending its monopoly status.

Scrapping the LCBO and shifting to a private, preferably uncapped, retail model would benefit consumers by offering them more choice and convenience. Ontario currently has the worst alcohol retail density in Canada, mostly because the combination of a government monopoly (LCBO), with a government-sanctioned private monopoly (The Beer Store) has limited the scalability of retail access. As a result, Ontario has only one alcohol retail outlet for every 4,480 residents. In comparison, British Columbia has one store for every 2,741 residents, Alberta one for every 1,897 residents, and Quebec one store for every 1,047 residents. Ending the LCBO’s monopoly would help bring Ontario onto a par with other provinces.

More importantly, rethinking the LCBO could save taxpayers a tremendous amount of money. The LCBO’s operating costs are bloated. Based on its 2019 annual financial statement, the average sales, general and administrative (SG&A) cost per store is $1,515,000 per year. With 666 corporate stores, that is a considerable expense to taxpayers. Private alternatives, like high-inventory private retailers in Alberta, cost significantly less to operate. Based on Alcanna’s 2019 annual financial report, the average SG&A for a private outlet comparable to an LCBO, is just $676,000 per year. If we could snap our fingers right now and fully transition the LCBO out of the government’s operating model, taxpayers would save an astounding $559 million per year. If the Ford government is looking for low-hanging fiscal fruit, this is it.

Labour unions and other supporters of nationalized alcohol distribution would obviously have an issue with the complete elimination of the LCBO. They will argue that privatization would threaten the well-paying jobs of the thousands of Ontarians who work for the LCBO. This could be true, as it’s unlikely that private retailers would require their workers to be members of OPSEU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which has negotiated wages well above the market rates for comparable jobs. That said, there is a compromise solution that both expands consumer choice, maintains those LCBO jobs, and saves taxpayers millions of dollars. It is to stop the LCBO from expanding its operations and let the private sector fill the void.

Each year, on average, the LCBO, makes a net addition of seven new stores in Ontario. If the province were to simply stop the LCBO’s expansion, and have the private sector fill the gap, taxpayers would cumulatively save $88 million after five years. At the 10-year mark that figure would be $323 million. And these savings are only the ongoing operational savings and don’t include the tens of millions of dollars the LCBO spends to acquire storefronts for expansion.

This compromise solution would allow the LCBO’s existing outlets to remain operational, while also allowing for more retail access and a hybrid model moving forward. On top of the cost savings, there might well be revenue gains. Hybrid and private retail models for alcohol sale (as in B.C. and Alberta) actually generate more alcohol tax revenue per capita, a further benefit for the public purse. Politically, this compromise solution is a no-brainer. Increasing access, fuelling private business opportunities, generating more revenue, and all the while maintaining current LCBO employment would be a win-win-win.

The Ford government has already laid the groundwork for such an approach. Buried in the licences and permits schedule in the 2019 budget, the province effectively cleared the way for a truly free and open alcohol market in Ontario. The bill states that “A person may apply to the Registrar for a licence to operate a retail alcohol store, operate as a wholesaler, or deliver alcohol.”

Ontario has opened the door for a consumer-friendly retail model for alcohol that would finally end the LCBO’s monopoly. Full privatization would be best but if that is too great a stretch politically, a free-entry compromise would still benefit all Ontarians. The government has created the possibility of such a change. For the sake of consumers and taxpayers, it should now follow through.

Originally published here.

Make it closing time for Ontario’s beer monopoly

The Beer Store is an institution built on a toxic mix of prohibition and cronyism

News broke this month that The Beer Store (TBS), Ontario’s monopoly beer-seller, is losing money and lots of it. According to its annual financial statement, TBS operated at a $50.7 million loss in 2020. While some of that can be chalked up to the pandemic decimating the demand for kegs, TBS has been in rough shape for some time. In fact, it hasn’t turned a profit since 2017, well before the pandemic upended the economy.

The Beer Store’s poor performance should lead Ontario consumers to ask the age-old question: why do we tolerate any entity having a virtual monopoly on the retail sale of beer? Even worse, why is its near-monopoly status protected by law?

For those who don’t know, which is approximately 68 per cent of Ontarians, TBS is a privately owned, government-protected monopoly first established on the heels of Prohibition. Its original purpose in 1927 was to create strict access points for beer retail, appeasing prohibitionists by supposedly protecting society from the evils of alcohol consumption.

Though the prohibition mentality is long gone its disappearance still hasn’t resulted in the liberalization of where Ontarians can buy beer. Right now, Ontarians only have limited options: The Beer Store, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), on-site sales at breweries, and a select number of grocery stores, 450 to be exact. Because of these limited choices, Ontario has the lowest alcohol retail density in all of Canada. Now would be a perfect time to liberalize the retail market for beer, specifically by granting convenience stores and any grocery store that wants to entry to the retail space.

The Beer Store naturally will fight tooth and nail to preserve its protected status but its arguments are not convincing.

Its first defence is legal — that it is protected under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA), signed under the Wynne government, which isn’t set to expire until 2025. But it is not unknown in Canadian history for legislatures to re-write agreements. Re-writing contracts does have its downsides but in this case revoking the agreement would serve competition and consumer choice, two very good causes.

The Beer Store also defends its protection under the banner of preserving jobs, keeping prices low, collecting revenues for the province, and protecting Ontarians from poor health outcomes. All these claims are bogus.

On job losses, TBS president Ted Moroz claimed in 2019 that alcohol liberalization would put the jobs of its 7,000 employees at risk. And well it might: competition usually doesn’t help protected incumbents. But researchfrom the Retail Council of Canada shows that expanding retail sales would actually create 9,500 new jobs in Ontario and boost GDP by $3.5 billion a year. Given Ontario’s financial position, any such boost is badly needed.

Originally published here.

Bar owners call on province to sell them cheaper booze

Ontario’s hard-hit hospitality industry is urging the province to give licensed bars and restaurants a reduced price on alcohol.

A new change.org petition started by David Ouellette, beverage director at the highly anticipated Vela (by Amanda Bradley of Alo and Robin Goodfellow of Bar Raval), opening this spring, asks for an immediate 25% reduction in the LCBO markup on alcohol sales to bar and restaurant licensees.

Ouellette is one of several people in the business calling out for lowered alcohol prices.

What’s really needed is wholesale pricing, but that, said Ouellette in a statement, will take too long. The25% reduction is a more realistic goal and will give fast relief to the sector.

Ontario’s antiquated liquor laws are the reason bars and restaurants pay full retail price through the LCBO for the alcohol they serve; to make any sort of profit they then add their margin, and consumers are left paying through the nose when they order a drink at a restaurant, bar or club.

John Sinopoli, co-owner of Ascari Hospitality Group and co-founder of SaveHospitality.ca — a grassroots coalition of Canadian restaurant and hospitality businesses — wrote about this issue last month in the Toronto Sun.

The upcoming Ontario budget expected in March, he said, “presents an opportunity for a regulatory change that is completely in line with the platform that Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservative government campaigned on, i.e. reducing taxes for small business, modernizing the LCBO, and the sale of alcohol in Ontario.”

Sinopoli acknowledged that Ford’s government has already made an important change by allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with take-out.

Still, wholesale prices would be an economic game-changer; as the new petition states, even a 25% reduction will help the industry and the consumer, and will also, “Return huge dividends to the LCBO as this reduction in the markup will be the single most effective investment in future sales that the LCBO will ever make.”

What’s at stake are more than 30,000 establishments and more than 300,000 employees.

Support for Ouellette’s petition and the push for lower alcohol prices to bars and restaurants is coming from David Clement, North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center.

Clement says this is one way the province could really help both consumers and bar and restaurant operations right now.

“Consumers want, and need, more competitive pricing at restaurants for beer, wine, and spirits, and this change would do exactly that,” said Clement.

“Ideally restaurants would be able to order beverage alcohol directly from producers without having to deal with the LCBO as the middleman. All the LCBO’s involvement does is ensure artificially-high prices for consumers.”

This change would also help businesses recover after the pandemic is finally over.

“This could be the lightning rod needed to get people back into restaurants post-COVID. It has an immense upside now, and after COVID is gone.”

There are other hoped-for changes, said Clement. Grocery stores that now sell beer and wine could also sell spirits, if the government would allow it.

The government has already shown itself willing to change, said Clement, via extended hours of sale, allowing delivery from restaurants and their commitment to eventually sell alcohol in convenience stores.

Lowering the markup now“is part of fixing our archaic and dated alcohol system.”

Originally published here.

ILLINOIS LAWMAKERS WORKING ON AT-HOME LIQUOR DELIVERY

With Illinois lawmakers back to work in a lame-duck session, one of the issues at the top of their to-do list is getting Illinois’ act together when it comes to home delivery of beer, wine and spirits.

According to a piece at Patch.com, the Illinois House Executive Committee forwarded a bill dealing with home delivery of alcohol to the floor of the House on Friday. It seems the overall problem that our state lawmakers have had in putting things together for home booze delivery is uniformity in laws throughout the state.

Patch.com:

If enacted, the bill would make the rules guiding home delivery of alcohol uniform across the state, and create a third-party facilitator license. Alec Laird, Vice President of government relations with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said home delivery has exploded amid the pandemic. “This is something that helps your mom-and-pop retailers and your consumers” said Laird.

As to the reference of liquor home delivery exploding during (and because of) the pandemic, I did a little digging to see what other states are doing about getting beer, wine, and spirits to the front doors of folks who would prefer to have their booze delivered rather than going out to pick it up.

ConsumerChoiceCenter.org says that right now, we’ve got 12 states that allow all liquor (and by all, I mean beer, wine, and spirits) to be delivered to homes, and 31 states (including Illinois) that are okay with beer and wine delivery. Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah still have home delivery bans in place for all three.

The Patch.com piece also points out that the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild is not happy about the Illinois bill, as they say small craft brewers are being left out.

Danielle D’Alessandro, Executive Director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild:

This is the second liquor delivery bill now that excludes the ability of small brewers and distillers to be able to deliver and ship to consumers in Illinois.

Illinois’ lame-duck legislative session lasts through Wednesday, so we’ll be keeping an eye on where the debate goes on home liquor delivery in Illinois.

Originally published here.

Bitter taste of alcohol ban

Bitter taste of alcohol ban

Fitch Solutions expects South Africa’s alcohol industry to contract more than 5% following months on the ban on the sale of alcohol during COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Fitch said its revised alcoholic drinks consumption forecast for 2020 takes into account the impact of COVID-19 measures on both the supply and demand side in order to better understand consumption habits.

“We now forecast total alcoholic drinks consumption to contract by -5.4% year on year in 2020, down from our pre-COVID-19 forecast of 0.7% year on year. This expectation stems from the fact that the more affordable beer category will be attractive to consumers as the economic impact of COVID-19 hits households,  with pay cuts and uncertainty around job security a likely outcome of the pandemic,” the consultancy said in a report.

“Furthermore, we expect consumers to purchase a larger proportion of their alcoholic drinks through the mass grocery retail channel and taverns for home consumption due to the residual fear of contracting the virus in public areas.”

The government earlier this month announced that it is lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol with limitations as the country entered in to level two of the nationwide lockdown from August 18. The new measures follow government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol through both on-trade and off -trade establishments on July 13.

An initial ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks was implemented on March 27. David Clement from Consumer Choice Centre said that government’s ban on the sales of alcohol and tobacco products was a disaster.

“While South Africa’s failed prohibition experiment is over, it is important for South African consumers to urge the government to refrain from implementing another ban if a second COVID-19 wave comes to pass,” said Clement. “The pandemic has been awful for millions of South Africans and the economy as a whole. Recreating prohibition in the process just made the situation worse.”

SAB said earlier this month that as a result of the 12-week ban on alcoholic drink sales by the government, the company is cancelling R2.5-billion of investment that had been planned for this year and it is also reviewing further R2.5-billion investment plans for next year.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

US Prohibition: The Noble Experiment?

Podcast by The History Society

Prohibition in the United States was dubbed the “Noble Experiment”. For 13  long, dry, and dreary years, the government aimed to keep alcohol out of the hands of its citizens, creating a litany of unintended consequences that continue to have an impact today.

In this episode, Yaël Ossowski describes the rise of the “dry” campaigners who sought Prohibition to remove alcohol from society, the bootlegging gangsters who built their fortunes, and the millions of Americans who became scofflaws in the face of corruption, violence, and disorder.

The Consumer Choice Center:  https://consumerchoicecenter.org/

Follow us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thshistorysociety/

Intro  and Outro Music: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod Link:  https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3742-fearless-first

License:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Prohibition has never and will never lead to smokers quitting

SA should learn from Australian tobacco policy failures, and stick to education rather than over-regulation

It is now beyond clear that SA’s continued ban on tobacco-related products has been a total disaster in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government loses R35m in tax revenue every day, and South Africans continue to smoke as before.

What comes after the lockdown ends? Research from the Australian government suggests that there should be a relaxation of tobacco policy given that country’s own failures. SA should take note.

Recent evidence from Australia illustrates the folly of trying to reduce demand through regulation, not that we necessarily need to look beyond the lived experiences of our friends and relatives here at home. On July 16, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare published its 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).

The survey asked more than 22,000 Australians about the performance of their government’s health policies, which includes tobacco control. Australia introduced plain packaging for tobacco products in December 2012, and is the only market for which longer-term data exists on policy effectiveness.

NDSHSs were conducted before and after this policy became operative, giving an indication as to whether it has succeeded.

Plain packaging was introduced to make tobacco products less appealing and thus lead to lower demand. But the NDSHS findings are not surprising and confirm what economists have known for decades: regulation and, at worst prohibition, does not lead to lower demand.

The percentage of daily smokers in Australia up to the introduction of plain packaging had been declining at a steady rate of 0.46% a year for more than two decades. After 2012, the decline slowed — not accelerated — to just 0.26% a year.

Before plain packaging, three in 10 Australians had no interest in giving up smoking — and that number did not decline afterwards. This is not to say that plain packaging was the cause of an increased demand, but rather that it certainly did not reduce demand.

Author’s analysis

Where plain packaging and other regulations can be blamed for an increased demand is with illegal loose-leaf tobacco, consumed either in roll-your-own form or inserted into empty cigarette tubes. The proportion of Australian smokers consuming these products increased by 37% after plain packaging was introduced, meaning that the 10.5% of illicit tobacco users in 2010 became 14.4% in 2019.

A May 2020 KPMG study agrees, but puts the latest numbers far higher for overall consumption of illicit tobacco (which includes unbranded loose tobacco, along with contraband and counterfeit product) — there has been an 80% increase in demand, from 11.5% in 2012 to 20.7% in 2019.

The Covid-19 lockdown regulations in SA have similarly caused the demand for illicit tobacco to skyrocket. Indeed, the only reason smokers aren’t rioting in the streets of SA is because they have managed to source cigarettes from the “black market”, which is short for “the economy doesn’t care about your politics”.

Prohibition cannot work: demand will always be supplied. Governments should find innovative ways of decreasing demand, such as education and information about alternatives to smoking, such as vaping.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem … and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes

The data shows that plain packaging is not helping Australian smokers quit. It might even be contributing to growth in the illicit tobacco trade. The law of unintended consequences, as with all policy, makes its presence known. It would therefore be unwise, reckless even, for SA to introduce plain packaging as contemplated in the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill of 2018.

As I pointed out at the time of the bill’s public participation process, the impact assessment undertaken by the government was woefully inadequate. That it did not factor in the poor performance of the plain packaging experience in Australia, goes to show that the bill was ill-considered.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should send the bill back to parliament, where any plain packaging provisions should be removed.

Moreover, the bill’s anticipated over-regulation of vaping products should also be revised, as vaping might prove to be one of the more effective means of getting people to quit smoking. If there is to be regulation, it must be proportionate and reflect the simple fact that vaping isn’t smoking, and they should not be treated in the same way. Public Health England argues that it is at least 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking, and e-cigarettes have also been found much better for quitting smoking, compared with nicotine replacement treatment.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem. It has cost government more than R1bn a month in revenue since March, and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes than would be available on the legal market. It is not government’s place, nor is it evidently within its expertise, to dictate lifestyle choices, even and perhaps especially during this particular pandemic.

Even the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has admitted that there is little to no evidence linking smoking to severe Covid-19 cases.

If SA does not wish to learn from history, which teaches the lesson that prohibition has never and can never work, then perhaps we can learn a lesson from experiences in other countries right now. The Australian experiment with plain packaging shows that at best it has no influence on the prevalence of smoking, and at worst might lead to an increased demand for illicit tobacco products, already a major problem in SA.

If our government insists on being involved in the lifestyle choices of citizens, it must stick to education and information, and leave the disastrous ideas of over-regulation and prohibition in the dustbin of history.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Blatant Tobacco Sales Bans are Terrible for Public Health

Al Capone is one of the most infamous criminals in history. Countless books and movies have elevated his name to a level that even during his lifetime, few imagined possible. His crime-syndicate, the “Chicago Outfit” fought bloody gang wars over the production and supply of illegal alcohol. The United States was in the midst of the era of alcohol prohibition, and supplying people with black market products was a lucrative business. Through a lack of health inspection, thousands died from bootlegged liquor, and the policy had fuelled the rise of some the worst mobster imaginable. The U.S had to change its constitution again to end the prohibition of alcohol.

The South African government was undoubtedly worried about the same thing when it gradually eased rules and regulations for the sale of alcohol during this pandemic. That said, the same logic is not being applied for tobacco products. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes remain illegal, leaving a large part of the population with no choice but to consult the black market, particularly since the ban came unannounced at the end of March. This policy decision has caused international attention — the BBC writes: “What was perfectly legal two months ago has turned thousands of people into potential criminals.”

Black market cigarettes don’t operate according to quality control and have been shown to poison their users in a literal sense.  

The criminal justice implications of enforcing such a stringent ban are fatal. Black market cigarette dealers have been shown to contribute to the rise of international terrorism. A 2015 report by the French Union for Industrial Production points to the fact that 20 percent of illicit cigarette sales finance international terrorism (according to the French Centre d’analyse du terrorisme in 2015). This number has been filtered out of a total number of 75 international prosecutions involving large-scale counterfeiting of tobacco products. Does feeding international crime with willing customers serve the interests of South Africa?

The government is right in pointing out that smoking isn’t a healthy habit. Even though the effect of tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic is scientifically disputed, it makes intuitive sense for consumers to try and reduce their tobacco consumption during an international health crisis involving a disease that causes acute respiratory problems. However, a complete ban on cigarettes is set to make things much worse. Black market cigarettes don’t operate according to quality control and have been shown to poison their users in a literal sense.

As a consumer and analyst from Luxembourg, I am not fond of all the public policy responses of my government.

Counterfeit cigarettes use three times more cadmium—which can cause renal failure or injuries to the liver—and arsenic—which has been proven to cause lung cancer. These cigarettes have also been found to contain hair, cement, and mouse faeces. UK-estimates released by the Local Government Association has put the level of cadmium in counterfeit cigarettes at around 500 percent higher than ordinary brands, making them considerably more dangerous to consume.

As a consumer and analyst from Luxembourg, I am not fond of all the public policy responses of my government. And yet, despite having a more substantial rate of COVID-19 infections than South Africa, the Luxembourgish government has not chosen to reduce the availability of cigarettes or vaping products. This shows that the South African response is not measured or thought through 

Consumers will be hurt by the decision to continue a blatant ban on tobacco products and harm-reducing products such as e-cigarettes. It is now time for the government to change course.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Consumers and Bar/Restaurant Owners say “YES” to HB 536

The Consumer Choice Center endorses a safe and timely return to business for areas with a lower risk for coronavirus outbreak

Raleigh, N.C. – Yesterday, the NC State Senate passed HB 536, the bill intended to safely re-open bars and restaurants in accordance with the guidelines set by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center said:

“Giving business owners the legal means to safely open and serve customers is now a necessity,” said Ossowski. “Establishments in high-risk areas should be advised to remain closed until health authorities say otherwise, but that decision must be with business owners.

“We all recognize the risks from the spread of COVID-19, but we must now trust that both owners of bars and restaurants and consumers will be responsible and follow the guidelines set by state and federal authorities.

“A one-size-fits-all approach for the entire state, in which cities and counties face all the same restrictions despite differing numbers of cases, is no longer tenable after more than two months of lockdown,” said Ossowski.

“This bill includes provisions for reopening safely in both outdoor and inside spaces, as well as endorsing modernized alcohol policy that favors all consumers and residents of North Carolina. Gov. Cooper should sign this bill and give North Carolinians renewed confidence to safely re-engage in commerce.”

“The Legislature should also look to make permanent changes to our alcohol laws to better empower consumers and offer them more choice. Loosening restrictions on how food and drink establishments can serve, offer, and deliver their products should be immediately taken into consideration,” said Ossowski.

More about our proposal for Modernized Alcohol Policies here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

Originally published here.

New York, Texas Ease Alcohol Delivery Law Amid COVID-19 Crisis

MOST STATES DON’T ALLOW CONSUMERS TO PURCHASE ALCOHOL ONLINE FOR DELIVERY.

Around the country, law against alcohol delivery are strict, which presents an interesting situation given the mass social isolation from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to Consumer Choice Center, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Hampshire are the only states that allow consumers to buy alcohol online and have it delivered to their home. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah ban all alcohol shipments entirely. All of the other states fall in between in terms of allowing shipments of wine, shipments of alcohol after an in-store purchase, and shipments from wineries in the state. 

“Now is as good a time as any to consider changing these laws and empowering consumers to receive alcohol at home just like any other product,” said Yaël Ossowski, Consumer Choice Center deputy director, in a post on the organization’s website. 

In New York, which now leads the country in the amount of COVID-19 cases, the State Liquor Authority announced a change in the law in which restaurants and bars can sell wine and liquor for takeout or delivery, but the consumer must also purchase food. The change was meant to support restaurants that are facing declining sales due to the statewide closure of dining rooms. Restaurants and bars in New York were already allowed to sell beer for takeout or delivery. 

Following New York’s lead, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday a waiver to allow restaurants and bars to deliver beer, wine, and mixed drinks with the purchase of food. He also told the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow businesses to sell back unopened product back to manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. 

In Ohio, no laws have changed, but restaurants and bars have been allowed to return unopened high proof liquor products bought within the past 30 days. The same is true for businesses that had to cancel events between March 12 and April 6. If the gathering ban in Ohio continues past April 6, then Ohio’s regulatory body will continue to allow the return of unopened product. 

More than half of states have closed dining areas and have limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery. Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump recommended that people do not gather in groups of more than 10. Meanwhile restaurants nationwide have seen sales plunge, and some foodservice organizations have asked the administration for financial relief. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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