Last Updated on September 1, 2021
In 2021, Americans can have virtually any product delivered directly to their doorsteps—food, clothing, medicine, and of course, alcohol. The rise of alcohol delivery apps (and their ease of use) have fueled a rise in at-home alcohol consumption.
As we will see in this article, for those trying to get alcohol out of the way, alcohol-to-go may not always be a good thing.
Online Food and Drink Delivery Services Are Booming
In a crowded field, the current market leader is Drizly, which saw new customers skyrocket1 in 2020. (This year, that growth has subsided a bit, but business is still booming.) Minibar Delivery, another up-and-comer, also saw increases from early March to April. Services like Bevvi and goPuff are also gaining in popularity.
International Wine & Spirit Research3 “now expects the total value of alcohol e-commerce across 10 global markets, including the U.S., to exceed $40 billion by 2024. That’s after the figure reached about $5.6 billion in 2020, up from around $3 billion in 2019.”
And as can be imagined, the pandemic has been the main cause of these increases.
State Regulations Vary Widely
In the United States, regulations about alcohol delivery vary widely. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), an advocacy group, maintains a database with facts and figures for each state.
Currently 31 of the 50 states (including Washington, DC) permit alcohol to be delivered to homes4. According to The Wall Street Journal, many states relaxed “rules limiting to-go drinks from restaurants and bars during COVID-19 lockdowns, and some allowed delivery companies to carry the drinks as well.”
Further, many of those laws have since become permanent, with others to follow. The result will be “widespread changes to alcohol delivery and takeout across the country.”
It is clear that the convenience of home delivery has become a part of contemporary life, and one that many consumers expect. We also applaud efforts to give help to restaurants and the hospitality industry, which are still struggling to adapt to the pandemic. But the ease of online alcohol delivery poses challenges for people trying to avoid it.
Ordering Alcohol From Home During a Pandemic
Shortly after the pandemic began in 2020, as some states added alcohol delivery, many experts explained5 why liquor stores are “essential.” In one sense, to heavy drinkers, these services are essential. At the start of the lockdown, some health professionals expressed concern, noting that without access to alcohol, some people would experience increased, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
It’s just too easy to order from home. Why wouldn’t consumers want to have heavy bottles of liquor delivered, rather than spending time and effort carting them back to the house?
The alcohol delivery industry is meeting consumers where they are—giving them what they want, when they want it. But the pandemic is making matters more complicated6. As Dr. Lorenzo Leggio of the NIAAA notes, “We know from previous traumatic events, Katrina and 9/11, people who survived some of them developed alcohol use disorder relating to the increase in stress.”
And as Dr. Leggio adds, the danger is not just from the increased likelihood of drinking. “People with excessive alcohol use have an increased risk of respiratory infections [and] increased risk of complications relating to respiratory infections.”
Meaning: increased risk for COVID-19.
How Those in Recovery Can Deal with Temptation
For those in recovery, easy access to alcohol can feel slightly treacherous. If you can order alcohol online, why wouldn’t you? Drink ordering apps offer less effort, less gas, and during a pandemic, no crowds. Nevertheless, people trying to drink less can take some common-sense steps.
It may seem obvious, but anyone who wants to cut down on alcohol should not install these delivery apps on their smartphones. The effort required to actually drive to a liquor store can be a subtle deterrent, and cause consumers to reconsider.
For someone wondering, “Can I order beer online?” the answer might be, “Yes, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Instead, go take a walk, read a book, or help your kids with their school work. Or if you’re having beverages delivered (perhaps aiming for a minimum order) choose bottles of water, flavored seltzers, coffee, tea, or juice.
Then there’s the cost to consider. One of the benefits of cutting down on alcohol is saving money. Avoiding these types of online services help, since delivery fees and gratuities can add up quickly.
At Ria, our staff helps members resist the online alcohol behemoth. (We also help people who want to pursue alcohol withdrawal safely.) We work with members where they are, to meet their own goals. Whether they want to completely cut out alcohol from their lives, or whether they want to have a glass of wine with dinner—the choice is theirs. Our evidence-based method has already worked for many people to help them change their relationship to alcohol.