State-by-state alcohol laws during COVID

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Alcohol has long been a part of celebrations, gatherings and social events. With the additional stresses and burdens that come with coronavirus, alcohol has been a way for some to relieve the stress and restore a bit of normalcy to everyday life. In just three months, alcohol sales shattered records, hitting a historic boom with the highest growth the industry has seen in ten years. The introduction of carry-out, delivery and curbside pickup for alcohol sales has been a game-changer, serving as an added revenue source that also makes alcohol far more accessible than before.

However, not all state governments feel the same about alcohol sales during COVID. It’s important to know your local alcohol laws before you head out to the grocery store or your neighborhood liquor store.

Celebrate safely

Suddenly, our homes have become the best bar in town, and although we may be inclined to stock for bars for virtual parties or family events, we can forget that the world outside is largely different than we are used to. Restaurants and bars are members of a stricken hospitality industry, and they have been dealt some of COVID’s most devastating blows since its outbreak in 2019. Quarantine, social distancing and limited capacities have crippled already struggling business owners, and many have had to significantly alter their operations in order to survive.

Today’s celebrations may look different in a COVID-impacted world, but there are still ways to celebrate safely. With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, many people may be itching to get out and enjoy a fun celebration, but your favorite spots may look a little different. Today, there are many restrictions impacting the service industry, such as the number of people allowed in each group and in the establishment overall. There are also several limitations regarding alcohol and how and when it can be served. Many establishments have been relegated to carry-out and delivery, assuming they were able to withstand the initial sweep of national closings. Even if establishments are open to the public, capacities are still dramatically reduced, face coverings are required in most locations and service is likely not the same as you remember with the adoption of digital menus and such.

Given these new changes, there are some other options to keep in mind.

Alternative options

Rideshare

States have handled COVID in largely different ways. For example, if you live in Minnesota, you can take your beer and meal to go, but in-person dining is not available. On the other hand, there are states like Florida, more widely publicized for less-restrictive COVID guidelines that permit regular dining and bar hours.

Whether you’re seeking to venture out for a meal or you’re planning your St. Patrick’s Day festivities, be sure to plan ahead by coordinating that ride home in advance if alcohol is involved and you don’t have a designated driver. Uber is known as one of the most popular ridesharing companies, but there are several other rideshare options for you to consider.

  • Lyft
    Lyft is very similar to Uber in how it works and its fees, although price can vary between the two, depending on where you are going and when. If you’re comfortable using Uber, you will find Lyft’s platform quite similar, although COVID precautions may vary between the two.
  • Curb
    Curb boasts a network of over 50,000 taxis and ridesharing options for more than 45 cities in the U.S. It functions similarly to Uber and Lyft, but if you book your trip in advance for a $2 fee and skip the surge pricing – even on busy nights.
  • Wingz
    This is mostly focused on airline travel, but it’s recently expanded to ridesharing with service in 16 major U.S. cities and 21 total airports.
  • Via
    Much in the spirit of youth hostels, Via allows you to hitch a ride with others. By sharing the tab, it’s far more affordable to catch a ride and still have money left over for your bar tab. Via has also partnered with Curb and Yellow Cab to offer expanded service.
  • Scoop
    Busy professionals will love Scoop, which allows you to schedule group rides for your neighbors or colleagues.

Alcohol delivery services/apps

Also convenient is the development of alcohol delivery apps and services which allow you to stay safely at home while your adult beverage staples are delivered to your door. Even better, you can opt for contactless delivery and have your purchases left at your front door to better keep with social distancing.

To save you from time spent Googling “alcohol delivery near me,” these are some of the best services to help when you need to restock your bar with your favorite bourbon or Chardonnay.

  • Drizly
    Through its partnership with tons of U.S. retailers, Drizly offers it all — beer, wine, and liquor — for home delivery. Ordering is easy, and Drizly doesn’t mark up its pricing, allowing you to save a few bucks.
  • DoorDash
    Similar to Uber Eats and GrubHub, DoorDash offers delivery of all your favorite foods and alcoholic beverages from restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries. There are additional fees added onto your order, depending on demand, but you can save with free delivery on your first order.
  • Instacart
    Instacart made its name in groceries, but the delivery service has since expanded to alcohol pickup and delivery, as well. Just place your order, and professional shoppers will prepare your order, sending notifications to keep you apprised of progress.
  • MiniBar
    As the name suggests, MiniBar is dedicated to stocking your mini or full-sized fridge with all of the essentials. Choose from beer, wine and liquor, or send a unique gift of a collector’s bottle or a lovely set of glassware. You can also order directly from vineyards.
  • Winc
    If you are an expert or budding wine connoisseur, Winc offers a monthly wine membership sure to expand your palate. Selections are personalized based on a brief survey, and when you find a blend you can’t live without, Winc lets you order more at a discount.

DUIs and insurance

Planning a ride may be an extra inconvenience when you’re rushing to finalize plans, but it’s well worth it just to avoid the consequences of drinking and driving. In addition to the regular threat of fatal drunk driving accidents, there is also the ever-present threat of a DUI conviction and the impact it can have — not only on your car insurance, but on your entire life overall.

Consequences of drinking and driving

Drinking and driving can have several serious and even fatal consequences. One of those serious consequences is a DUI or a DWI conviction. Penalties ultimately depend on where you live, but these are some of the consequences to expect when you are charged with a DUI.

  1. License suspension
    When you are guilty of a DUI, one penalty is the suspension or revocation of your license. The length of the suspension depends on liquor law by state – many states require one year, but they vary. For example, Delaware will limit a first offense revocation to no more than 12 months, and Oklahoma will suspend for no less than 10 days or more than 1 year for a first offense.
  2. Insurance increases
    A DUI affects your insurance for up to three years in most cases, but it can last on your driving record for years longer (generally 7-10 years). This can significantly impact how much the cost of car insurance, increasing your auto insurance premiums by as much as $3,000 a year. Bankrate found that the car insurance company you use can also impact how much you pay, with companies like The Hartford increasing by several thousand dollars after a DUI. In some cases, you may be ineligible for continued coverage if you receive a DUI conviction.
  3. Possible incarceration time
    A first offense is considered a misdemeanor and can result in community service or short incarceration time. Many times, first-time offenders are given a break, but if you are a repeat offender, it could result in up to five years or more of jail time ordered separately or in conjunction with community service.
  4. Job clearances
    A DUI can impact your existing job, which is why it’s important to advise your supervisor of the issue and what you are doing to rectify it. For some jobs, however, a DUI could be career-ending. A DUI on your criminal record could impact you from finding employment, especially in driving-related jobs such as truck drivers, bus drivers and delivery drivers. Government and military jobs can also be difficult to obtain with a DUI.
  5. Travel restrictions
    A DUI typically does not impact interstate travel, but if you are leaving the country, you may have some trouble when you have a DUI conviction. Some countries have restrictions in place that prevent those with a criminal record — or any record, for that matter — from entering the country. If you plan on leaving the U.S., it’s critical that you also check COVID travel restrictions that could also impact your itinerary.
  6. Fines
    The cost of a DUI can include steep fees. Although they can vary by state, fines can run anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for your first conviction, and penalties only grow worse with each repeat offense. A single DUI in Alaska can cost over $25,000 in fines, bond, legal fees, interlock services, reinstatement fees and lost income.
  7. Driver education
    After a DUI, it’s not uncommon for courts to require drivers with a DUI conviction to complete driver education courses. In addition to improving their skill, the courses also aim to educate drivers on the impacts of their choices, particularly where driving impaired is concerned.

Tips for preventing drunk driving

Drunk driving is more common than you may be aware. Drunk driving statistics in 2021 are truly horrifying, and echo national trends over time:

  • In the U.S., someone dies from alcohol-related crashes every 48 minutes.
  • More than 230 children were killed from drunk driving in 2018 alone.
  • Almost half of all drunk driving-related accidents involve passenger cars.

It’s not uncommon to see someone preparing to drive while impaired. Whether it is alcohol or drugs, you know that there is no way that that person should slide behind the wheel, but it’s also an uncomfortable and touchy subject that many people may feel hesitant to address directly. These tips can help when you need to interject in order to prevent drunk driving.

  1. Politely talk to them.
    Sometimes, reason can win, so be honest about the situation. Pull your friend aside so as not to embarrass them and let them know that now is probably not the best time to be driving on the road if they are impaired. Explain that you care too much about them to let something bad happen and that you would hope they would do the same for you.
  2. Call a ride.
    There are several options for a safe ride home, whether it is public transportation, a taxi or a ridesharing company like Uber and Lyft. If your friend doesn’t want to miss out on the party, volunteer to go along so there is company on the ride home. It also helps you guarantee that your loved one makes it home safely.
  3. Give it some time.
    If your friend isn’t ready to leave, some time to sober up could be a huge help. Make sure your companion has enough food and water to slow the absorption of alcohol. As the nourishment sobers the body, your friend may also become more reasonable about surrendering the keys to the car and accepting an alternate form of transportation home for the night.
  4. Get those keys.
    When all else fails, hide the keys or give them to the bartender. If your friend can’t find the keys, then no drunk driving can occur. While there may be initial objections, your loved one is likely to thank you the next day.

State-by-state alcohol laws

This is a detailed listing of current liquor laws by state with considerations for COVID.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.