Alcohol Delivery Laws: Which States Allow Online Alcohol Purchase?
We all like the conveniences of delivery – whether it's dinner, groceries, or alcohol. The problem is that with a restricted substance like alcohol, delivery isn't automatically legal. In most cases, jurisdictions have had to set up specific permit types and laws to accommodate residential shipping or delivery of alcoholic beverages.
These laws are changing very fast, so it can be hard to keep track of where it's legal and what the rules are. Below, we do our best to help you sort out which states allow you to buy alcohol online, which states allow alcohol delivery, and other related questions.
In What States Can You Buy Alcohol Online?
There are actually a few separate questions here:
- What states can liquor be shipped to (from a distance)? Which states allow shipment directly to a residence? Which states allow the shipment to originate online?
- In which states is it legal to deliver alcohol (from local retailers)?
In either case, you may be placing an order online but the manner by which you get the alcohol (shipping or delivery) can make a difference in the legality.
Liquor Shipping Laws by State
Wholesale shipping of liquor (from a distributor to a liquor store) has been legal for a long time. Still, direct shipping of liquor (direct-to-consumer or D2C) is a recent development.
Most U.S. states and territories allow out-of-state manufacturers to ship alcohol directly to consumers, but in most cases, it's restricted to wine rather than beer or liquor.
Jurisdictions that Allow Direct Shipment of All Spirits
There are only seven states (and one district) that allow beer, wine, and liquor (or, rather, "all spirits") to be directly shipped to their consumers.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Jurisdictions that Allow Direct Shipment of Beer and Wine (but Not Liquor)
Eight states allow you to have beer and wine shipped to your home, including:
- North Dakota
- Oregon (also, cider)
Jurisdictions that Allow Direct Shipment of "Wine Plus" (but Not Beer or Liquor)
Four states don't allow the direct shipment of beer and liquor, but explicitly allow a few alcoholic beverages beyond "wine."
Connecticut and New Jersey allow wine, mead, and cider. New Mexico allows wine and cider.
Arkansas allows wine and mead to be shipped, but the consumer must be physically present at the winery to make the purchase. In other words, Arkansas allows shipping but not online orders.
Jurisdictions that Don't Specify
Three territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) have no statutes addressing direct shipment of alcoholic beverages at all – they don't explicitly allow or disallow it.
Jurisdictions that Allow Direct Shipment of Wine Only
All the remaining U.S. states explicitly allow shipment of wine.
However, sometimes there are hoops to jump through.
A few states disallow online alcohol orders – the consumer must be physically present at the business when they purchase the order, which is then shipped to their home state.
In a few others, the shipment must be sent to a licensed business instead of a residential address.
Alcohol Delivery Laws by State
Alcohol delivery laws by state are…a mess. States relaxed alcohol delivery laws during the pandemic, but each state has its own mix of rules, and whether these laws are permanent or temporary is a hodge-podge.
Whether delivery is "legal" within a state depends on:
- The category of alcoholic beverage (beer, wine, liquor, and others)
- Whether the alcoholic beverage is packaged for delivery by a local business (like mixed drinks) or a manufacturer (in a sealed can or bottle)
- The type of business that can offer delivery, and whether all those businesses are eligible or a special permit is required
- Whether intermediaries are allowed, like Uber Eats alcohol delivery
To make matters worse, laws are rarely consistent across an entire state. Restrictions often vary based on local law as well (county or municipal).
When you take all of that into consideration, the issue of whether your city allows the ordering of alcohol on Doordash or a similar service is a bit more nuanced than one blog article can account for across the country.
Texas Alcohol Delivery Laws
The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC) allows parking lot pickup of alcohol orders for most license types these days, and it now issues Consumer Delivery (CD) permits that are allowed to work with most license and permit types.
As of 2021, mixed drinks can be delivered off-site to consumers if the business has a Food and Beverage (FB) Certificate and the alcohol is accompanied by some amount of food. Deliveries can only be made within the same county as the business, or up to 2 miles beyond the city limits for cities that are near a county line.
Certain jurisdictions, including dry and damp counties, may have restrictions on what is allowed.
Jurisdictions Where Alcohol Delivery is Illegal
Alcohol delivery is illegal in Utah, but many of the other states where it was completely disallowed have come around over the last year or two.
Alabama and Mississippi were long-time holdouts, but both states recently passed alcohol delivery laws. The programs are still ramping up.
How Do Shipment/Delivery Laws Handle Alcohol ID Checks?
At TIPS, we focus on helping alcohol servers and licensees stay compliant with liquor law, and a huge part of that is proper alcohol ID checks.
In some jurisdictions, checking ID for alcohol is required by statute, but in many cases, it's a matter of liability. Businesses and individuals can be held criminally responsible if they sell to someone underage, so checking ID for alcohol becomes important whether it's technically required or not.
This holds true for alcohol delivery ID checks – it's often as much about liability as legality. So, does Uber Eats check ID for alcohol? You bet, it's company policy. When you order alcohol on Doordash, Uber Eats, or another service, the driver is supposed to confirm ID just as a bartender would. If you fail to produce valid ID, the driver can leave any non-alcoholic items but they can't complete the alcohol delivery.
There's a reason TIPS offers responsible alcohol vendor training for delivery. By learning how to prevent illegal alcohol deliveries, you can protect yourself from civil and criminal liability. Enroll today!