The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of daily life and has hit one industry particularly hard: hospitality. For bars, hotels and restaurants across the globe, the pivot from, “Want to grab a drink downtown after work?” to “You free for a virtual happy hour tonight?” has not been music to the ears. And even after nearly five months of “shelter-in-place” mandates, many restaurants and bars are still closed. Yet, alcohol consumption is up.
To adapt to increased consumer demand for alcohol in non-public spaces amid pandemic challenges, many cities, counties, and states have been forced to modify how they regulate alcohol and reframe how it can be safely served and consumed. According to Nielsen, in-store alcohol sales increased by 55% in late March after “stay-at-home” orders hit most of the country, while online sales were up 243%. California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, for example, issued various regulatory relief measures in an effort to help the state’s restaurants and bars sell alcohol more easily to customers and mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.
As establishments have been forced to rethink how they connect with customers and maintain business continuity under shelter-in-place restrictions, governments are now tasked with meeting surging demands for new needs such as outdoor consumption permits. SaaS technology can help ABC departments keep up with these kinds of regulatory changes and better prepare for the future by improving agility, streamlining and automating tasks, and providing convenient online access for both citizens and agency staff.
Wide-Ranging Alcohol Laws Across the Country
Even before the pandemic, each state had its own unique rules with respect to regulating alcohol, which can oftentimes complicate implementing new processes quickly. Here is a glimpse into some interesting alcohol laws past and present across the country:
- Colorado: Law requires that wine be sold in containers at least 24 ounces. Spirits in containers of at least a fifth of a gallon. However, no alcohol beverage can be stored in hotel minibars in anything larger than mini containers.
- Wisconsin: An adult under 21 married to one aged 21 or older can legally drink with their spouse.
- Alaska: There are 83 dry towns and villages. Two of these were dry for moose. That is, it was illegal to feed a moose any alcoholic beverage!
- Utah: Wine used in wine tastings must not be swallowed.
- Nebraska: Prohibits bars from selling beer unless they are also brewing a kettle of soup.
- West Virginia: Bars can advertise alcohol beverage prices, but not brand names.
- Alabama: Two of every three counties are dry. That is, they prohibit the production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages.
- Texas: State law prohibits taking more than three sips of beer at a time while standing.
- Pennsylvania: Tax on wine and spirits is called the Jamestown Flood Tax. It was imposed in 1936 to raise funds to help the city of Jamestown rebuild from a devastating flood.
Using Cloud Solutions to Stay Ahead
With such a variety of state laws that are now also evolving due to COVID-19, staying ahead of regulations and various license types can certainly be a challenge. Leveraging SaaS technology gives state and local governments the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing environments, and keeps critical licensing processes moving forward remotely while protecting public health and safety during a crisis.
Accela’s Civic Application for Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) provides agencies with a powerful SaaS tool to transform alcoholic beverage control and navigate complicated and ever-shifting licensing processes with ease. The solution automates and manages the numerous steps in the licensing process, helping agencies reduce turnaround time and free up staff to focus on other important tasks, which has become more important than ever amid widespread budget constraints during the pandemic. The ABC Civic Application also enables citizens to apply for and receive licenses online to minimize public health risks that could occur via in-person interactions at city hall or county offices. In doing so, the solution also makes it easier for ABC departments to track and monitor applications in progress and improve customer service.