What 2022 Taught Us About Freeing American Alcohol Markets
In the first two years of the pandemic, American alcohol rules underwent a fundamental shift. States started enacting emergency orders—and then cementing those orders in legislation—that authorized never-before-seen innovations in alcohol policy, such as letting restaurants and bars deliver booze and sell it to go. But if 2020 and 2021 ushered in new hopes of opening up American alcohol markets, 2022 is the year when protectionism struck back.
In the early months of the pandemic, state governments were reacting in real time to unprecedented circumstances. The new environment included stay-at-home orders, social distancing guidelines, and masking mandates. It no longer became viable for most retail businesses to rely solely on an in-person customer base, as the entire economy shifted over to a delivery-centric model. Restaurants, breweries, wineries, and neighborhood liquor stores all faced an existential business crisis.
States reacted by upending a nearly centurylong consensus on alcohol regulations. Before, it was essentially unheard-of to let a pizzeria throw in a margarita with a delivery order. Then states started issuing emergency orders that allowed it. And practices that had been slightly more common—such as allowing alcohol to be included in grocery store deliveries, which numerous states permitted before COVID-19—spread to an unprecedented number of locales.
Unsurprisingly, these changes proved popular. In states where citizens were polled, strong majorities expressed their support for more types of to-go and delivery booze. Lawmakers can read polls, and a wave of states either extended the reforms or made them permanent.
The results were dramatic. When 2020 began, no place in America had a statewide to-go or delivery alcohol law for restaurants. By the fall of 2021, 29 states had such a law on the books. During that time, another seven states passed laws permitting alcohol delivery from off-premise stores, such as grocery or liquor stores, and eight states passed laws expanding the delivery capabilities of breweries, distilleries, and other alcohol produ
Article from Reason.com