HOLLADAY, Utah — Before the doors even open at state-run liquor stores, people are lined up outside.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited store capacity and hours, forcing people to wait outside to purchase alcohol. Now, Utah's liquor control authority is planning to implement online, curbside sales in the future.
"You’d be able to order whatever you’re looking for online, someone here at our store would see that and would fill that order," Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control deputy director Cade Meier said in a recent interview with FOX 13. "You’d be able to come in, come to the register, hopefully you'd be able to pay for it online. But you’d have to come in verify, obviously, age, that kind of good stuff and then take the product and leave."
The DABC has dubbed it "click and collect." It's a way to deal with store crowding, long lines and provide something to consumers that the state of Utah obviously controls the sale and supply of. Consumers are already used to ordering groceries online and picking them up, so why not alcohol?
"We think it will be a very customer friendly, but at the same time being a responsible way, for us to accomplish our mission," Meier said.
Asked if it was likely to happen, Meier replied: "Yeah. I think it is."
Plans are already being made to design the feature in newer DABC stores. The Saratoga Springs store has a spot on the check-out counter where they would just need to hang up a sign and customers could pick up those online orders.
There is no immediate time frame for allowing "click and collect," but the DABC believes it has the authority to make it happen. However, it needs funding from the Utah State Legislature to hire staffing and design an online ordering site. Any funding would not come until the 2021 legislative session that begins in January.
Lawmakers FOX 13 spoke with were cautious but open to the idea.
"Can we ensure that the safeguards are in place?" said Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, who handles liquor legislation for the House Republican majority. "But yeah, we’ve got to make sure our systems align with what consumers expect and demand."
Rep. Hawkes said a bigger debate is over whether the DABC allowing for "click and collect" would open the door to bars and restaurants selling drinks in a similar manner. Restaurant and bar groups have been vocal about wanting it as they see sales drying up in the pandemic, but so far the legislature has resisted any changes.
The legislature has always taken a temperate approach to liquor policy, with Utah being one of the most restrictive states in the nation. But Rep. Hawkes said he was not opposed to the idea of curbside sales at DABC stores.
"Welcome the conversation, it’s going to be an ongoing one," he told FOX 13. "I think we will see movement in that direction. I can’t say how soon."
Immediately, Rep. Hawkes said he wanted to address having more competitive wages and better staffing at state-run liquor stores. The DABC makes over a half-billion for the state annually, but does not control its own budget. The legislature does.