Nearly 100 years post-Prohibition, alcohol control remains a highly complex topic. This is due in large part to inconsistencies surrounding alcohol licensing, permitting and citizen confusion about the rules and regulations of when and where alcoholic beverages can be purchased and consumed.
State by state, differences abound for citizens’ ability to buy alcohol in grocery stores vs. liquor stores, and on Sunday vs. any day. Questions linger even within restaurants and bars: What time constitutes “last call,” and is it consistent across county and state lines?
Business owners face a slightly different challenge: a lengthy and complex application process for liquor licenses and permits that can require months of waiting to receive an approval, or worse, a denial.
In a previous life, I was the State Licensing Director for the State of Connecticut. I’ve seen the thick paper files of alcohol permit applications, reference checks and background information required for a license. And the paper trail doesn’t stop there. All that paper has to get passed between multiple departments before being presented to the Commission for approval. It is a lengthy and exhausting process that can drive even the most hardy to throw their hands in the air in frustration.
Fortunately, I also saw the difference technology can make in expediting and automating these processes. Unlike the days of Prohibition, government agencies across the country now have access to a true “paperless office” to provide customers the tools they need to apply for and renew licenses online, see the status of their application or submit complaints.
In 2014, When Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam formally signed legislation allowing grocery stores to sell wine by 2016, the State of Tennessee Alcoholic & Beverage Commission (TABC) knew it was time to invest in an automated, flexible e-licensing solution capable of managing its complex and changing regulatory processes.
“Our goal is to streamline our processes to encourage online application and thus enable faster issuance, and enable these entities, and our office, to go paperless.” – Doug Duncan, IT Director, Tennessee ABC
We’re excited to share that the TABC will be implementing our Alcohol Licensing solution to expand its services and enable customers to apply, renew and pay online for all licenses and permits issued by the TABC. Its new cloud-based software solution provides the commission with cutting-edge tools to improve licensing, permitting and education processing efficiency by replacing paper-based procedures. Its goal is to offer a 24-hour self-service portal to assist citizens with license look-up and license and permit maintenance, thereby encompassing all aspects of the handling, serving and sale of alcoholic beverages.
Tennessee is far from alone. Alcoholic Beverage Control agencies across the country – from the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to ABC State regulatory agencies in New York, Massachusetts, Alabama and Washington D.C., to numerous municipalities across the U.S. – are using technology to automate their often complex regulatory rules, as well as provide online services to help citizens speed lengthy license processes.
Three years ago, the New York State Liquor Authority struggled with permit review times of more than 180 days. With process improvements and a technology solution, permit approval times have been reduced to 45-60 days for complex permits with further improvements expected. Even more impressive, one-time event permits can now be processed online with approvals often in less than a day.
The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is another example. It has managed the complexity of liquor regulation with a 3-step process involving local licensing authorities and its commission. By leveraging the latest in licensing technology, it is working toward enhancing the end-user experience, improving processes and, at the same time, reaching out to municipalities to communicate improvements to the overall process.
In an ever-changing and increasingly complicated regulatory environment, state alcoholic beverage control agencies need to manage the changing legislation and rules – as well as be able to meet the new stringent review processes – to find ways to improve processing time and make enforcement activities safe and efficient for citizens.
Without the right technology and solutions partner, this can certainly be a tall order. The good news is that agencies that tap into the potential that technology can offer will be able to deliver streamlined licensing, permitting and enforcement activities, all while efficiently meeting service demand. In fact, I’ll bet the first round on it.
Karin Vertefeuille works with government licensing agencies to share how technology can make their jobs easier and help citizens become engaged in the licensing process. She has served as the Director of Licensing for the State of Connecticut and is currently a Business Development Director at Accela. For more information on Accela Alcohol Licensing, visit our website.