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Meal Delivery Services Can Soon Deliver Booze

New state law allows Tennesseans to order alcohol with food delivery.



Tennesseans will soon be able to have a bottle of wine delivered alongside their Italian takeout, thanks to a new state law.

The bill allowing for alcohol delivery was signed by the governor in April. It allows third-party takeout vendors, that pick up meals from various restaurants and deliver to homes, to also sell alcohol alongside food. At least 50 percent of total sales must be food, so there will not be any alcohol-only delivery services in the state.

The law goes into effect on July 1st, but the process for getting companies on board may not allow companies to start selling alcohol on that date.

Customers can get up to 1 gallon of alcohol — that's about two 1.75-liter bottles of liquor or five bottles of wine.

Meals in Motion, a Memphis-area food delivery company, will be participating in the newly legalized alcohol delivery. Abby Huffman, the owner of the company, said they're excited about the new opportunity, especially as Meals in Motion expands into Germantown.

"We've been trying to call the [Alcoholic Beverage Commission] dozens of times over the six years we've been in business, and we kept getting told 'no,'" she said. "Apparently, they got the right wheels going and, somehow, it made it through the legislature."

Huffman has been in contact with the Memphis and Nashville alcohol boards to find out exactly when they're able to start selling alcohol alongside their food. She has already been in talks with liquor stores as well, determining how they will set up an alcohol menu.

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"Even though the law goes into effect July 1st, they said it's going to take a while to get the policies, procedures, and application process finalized," she said.

In Huffman's research, she has found that companies in other states that have adopted this policy saw an increase of 50 to 75 percent in business, and she expects the same for Meals in Motion.

"I've got some folks who are very excited to order some wine and a prime rib to go with it," Huffman said.

The buffer period may provide time for companies like Chef Shuttle to figure out the new legislation. Chef Shuttle CEO Ryan Herget said the top priority is making sure the company "follows the law down to a T."

"With our drivers being out in the field and not being in one central location, we want to make sure we can control the process and do it in a legal way before jumping headfirst," Herget said. "We do plan to participate, but we want to make sure we're going to do it in the right way."

Herget says customers have asked about it after seeing similar ventures from food delivery companies elsewhere. But even when people ask for it, there's going to be risk, especially when it comes to alcohol, Herget said.

"You've got to have systems in place to make sure that the customer is of age to receive that liquor," he said. "For us, it's a balance. I think, unfortunately, you're going to see a couple of companies rushing into it in order to please their customers without fully understanding the law. We want it to work, but we want to do it in a responsible way."

Chef Shuttle, which has its home office in Little Rock, has also been involved with pushing similar legislation in Arkansas.

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