California followed many states in passing a take-out cocktail bill last year that, despite its flaws, offered a lifeline to struggling restaurants as the COVID-19 pandemic kept people away from the scene. public. When the Legislative Assembly returns from summer recess, it seeks to make further changes to the takeout rules. It’s a valid idea, but it has a small problem.
Senate Bill 846 epitomizes California’s approach to almost everything. Even when lawmakers try to do the right thing by giving people more freedom, they can’t help but make things more expensive and complicated than they need to be.
When legislation was passed last year allowing restaurants to sell takeout drinks, it included several limitations that angered the industry. For example, the law stated that restaurants could only sell alcohol for takeout if it was accompanied by a “bona fide” meal in the same order. It also allowed take-out or curbside drinks, but clearly did not allow these drinks to be delivered to customers’ homes.
California lawmakers decided to revisit the issue to clean up these arbitrary restrictions since the last go-around. The new bill would remove the outdated meal requirement and specifically allow delivery rather than just curbside pickup.
In addition to these notable advances, California lawmakers still managed to squeeze a few unfortunate provisions into the bill. The new “consumer delivery service” license created by the legislation – which would allow restaurants, bars or third-party delivery companies to deliver to consumers’ homes – will apparently carry a $20,000 application fee and annual renewal fee of $1,500.
These numbers are way out of proportion to delivery permit fees in other states that have enacted take-out and delivery reforms. For example, Louisiana’s delivery permit costs $1,500, while North Carolina’s only costs $400. Even Virginia’s new law is $7,500 for businesses with more than 25 employees and $2,500 for those with fewer than 25. For a bill intended to help struggling small businesses, it is incongruous to charge $20,000 for the right to deliver a margarita.
The new bill also contains a curious requirement that all delivery people must complete approved Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training in order to engage in alcohol deliveries. RBS training is the industry standard training for servers and bartenders responsible for serving alcohol to restaurant customers.
Given its use in the restaurant industry, RBS training includes many requirements that have no direct application in the delivery context. Among other things, it includes training on “response techniques for dealing with intoxicated patrons”, “how alcohol affects the body” over time, and state laws regarding driving under the influence. influence. It concludes with a two-hour exam at the end in order to complete the certification.
For the neighborhood bartender Applebee’s, it is obviously important that he be able to discern the impact of alcohol on a customer who continues to drink for a period of time. If this box is not checked, this customer could attempt to return home intoxicated or engage in other harmful behaviors on the premises.
The delivery context is very different. The delivery drivers intervene exclusively at the point of sale of alcohol and therefore no longer maintain contact with the customer. They have a brief and fleeting interaction, during which their main task should be to confirm that the customer is not an underage buyer.
It therefore makes little sense to train them on topics such as “response techniques” for intoxicated patrons, and it makes even less sense to require extensive training on driving laws. drunk – after all, the purpose of the delivery is to bring the alcohol to the customer. so they don’t have to drive. Interestingly, California ABC itself seems to recognize this, as its website describes RBS training as “for onsite consumption.”
The main opposition to the new bill has come from unions, who oppose it because it would allow the use of third-party delivery companies that employ independent contractors. Even if unions cannot block the bill outright, their influence shows in the attempt to force delivery drivers to become more of an on-site employee through RBS training.
Despite all the COVID-19 era alcohol delivery reforms that have been enacted across the country, there are still few standardized training guidelines for alcohol delivery staff. One idea would be for organizations like the National Association of Licensing and Compliance Professionals to develop industry best practices that states could follow.
In the meantime, California could follow what other states have done by creating two types of training — one for servers and one for delivery drivers — and tailoring delivery training more closely to truly relevant topics.
California lawmakers have shown a willingness to update the state’s liquor rules in recent years — and even Governor Gavin Newsom recently promoted California’s ‘freedoms’ in an ad he ran in Florida. In this new bill, they should now go all the way and completely free alcohol delivery in the Golden State.
C. Jarrett Dieterle is Resident Principal Investigator at the R Street Institute.