Bill would allow alcohol retailers to use third-party delivery services

Retailers would be allowed to use third-party services to deliver alcohol to customers under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

Iowans might have an easier time getting a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine delivered with their groceries under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate.

Senate Study Bill 1163 would allow retailers such as grocery stores, breweries or distilleries to use third-party services to deliver alcoholic beverages to customers.

Brad Epperly, a lobbyist for the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, which proposed the bill, said the change would aid grocers who have had staffing issues while facing the high demand for delivery during the pandemic. Hy-Vee also registered in support of the bill, along with some breweries and distillers.

Senators on a three-member subcommittee said Tuesday they viewed the legislation as a minor adjustment to current law, which already allows delivery by employees of the businesses. The Legislature approved carryout cocktails for restaurants last year.

“I think it’s relatively simple. I think it’s a direction we’ve already chosen to go, we’re just cleaning it up now,” Sen. Tony Bisignano, D-Des Moines, said.

However, a representative of Iowa’s restaurant owners said Tuesday that the state needs broader reforms for food delivery.

“Our industry has been dealing with third-party delivery services for several years and we have literally been at their mercy. And it’s a nearly unregulated gig industry,” said Jessica Dunker, Iowa Restaurant Association president.

She said delivery services can falsely represent themselves as being associated with the restaurant. “They can co-opt your menu or your store offerings online and start taking orders,” Dunker said, and they don’t need any training or temperature control equipment for safe food handling.

Epperly and some other supporters of the bill said they would be willing to work with the restaurants on broader delivery regulations but urged senators to move ahead with the bill as it stands. “We’re talking about a minor step here and they’re talking about a regulatory framework — which we’d be happy to work on — but we just want to do our little step right now.”

Stephanie Strauss, a representative of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division, said the retailer would be liable for violations of laws by a third-party agent such as delivering alcohol to an underage or intoxicated person.  “This third party would be acting as an agent of the retailer and would be responsible for abiding by the requirements and restrictions” in Iowa law, she said.

Sen. Craig Johnson, R-Independence, said he believes lawmakers will be faced with more issues related to delivery.

“And you know, whether it’s that far-out idea of a drone delivering a package of alcohol, I think at some point we’re going to be faced with that discussion. Which is just phenomenal. It is really living, you know, the Jetsons,” Johnson said.

Johnson, Bisignano and Sen. Carrie Koelker, R-Dyersville, agreed to advance the bill. Senate Study Bill 1163 moves next to the Senate State Government Committee.

Editor’s note:  Jim Obradovich, a lobbyist who is registered in favor of the bill, is married to Iowa Capital Dispatch Editor Kathie Obradovich. His involvement does not affect Iowa Capital Dispatch’s news judgment or reporting.