We have become a society of instant gratification and convenience, fueled by technological innovation. Not too long ago if you were craving pizza, you actually had to go pick it up. Then there were those awful, dreaded trips to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week. Enter the Smartphone and the world of mobile apps, and the way retailers reach consumers has been completely transformed.
Today, within minutes you can order your specialty pizza and it is delivered to door with a few swipes across your Smartphone. As you wait for your pizza to arrive, you can send your grocery list to your virtual ‘personal shopper’ who arrives at your doorstep within hours with everything from paper towels to coffee, to fresh fruits and vegetables. While you’re at it, why not sift through dozens of potential suitors within minutes and get a date for Friday night. With all of this newly found convenience at our fingertips, it was only a matter of time before we would ask, “Why can’t I have beer, wine and liquor delivered to my door?”
For years, Michigan entrepreneurs have been eager to pursue alcohol delivery opportunities through partnerships with web-based and mobile app companies such as Saucey, Drizly and Klink, who have operated in other states for several years. Take the alcohol delivery service DrinkDrivers for example. While DrinkDrivers was operating legally under Florida law in 2014, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission halted DrinkDrivers’ operations for noncompliance with Michigan law when the concept was brought to Ann Arbor. At that time, with a few very specific exceptions, delivery of alcohol directly to a consumer was prohibited in Michigan. While you could get just about everything you could think of delivered to you in the comfort of your home, beer, wine and liquor were the holdouts, which meant you actually had to walk or drive yourself to the store to pick up your alcohol – a strange concept, I know.
Last year, the world of alcohol delivery in Michigan changed with the amendment of MCL 436.1203 and the creation of a new Third Party Facilitator License. Welcome to the world of total retail convenience. Now, when you are craving pizza and a nice local craft beer but don’t feel like going out, your favorite pizza joint (if properly licensed) can bring your hot pizza and cold beer directly to you, before you even have time to chill your pint glass.
With a Third Party Facilitator License, the gap between the retailer’s physical location and the consumer’s home can now be filled. A retailer with a Specially Designed Merchant (SDM) or Specially Designated Distributor (SDD) license can now utilize web-based or mobile apps to facilitate home delivery of beer, wine or liquor to their customers through their own employees or a partnership with a Third Party Facilitator. The benefit is two-fold; an opportunity for restaurants, convenience stores and entrepreneurs alike to boost sales, and an avenue to improve public safety by keeping individuals from drinking and driving.
New applicants seeking a Third Party Facilitator License must comply with all statutory and administrative requirements typical of a retail liquor license applicant with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. This includes submission of inspection, application and license fees, as well as successful completion of a background check. A Third Party Facilitator applicant is also subject to investigation by the Enforcement Division, including review of the applicant’s background and financial information. Since the Third Party Facilitator License has been classified as part of Michigan’s retail liquor license tier, an existing licensee who holds a manufacturer or wholesaler license cannot have a direct or indirect interest in a Third Party Facilitator License. Once approved, the Third Party Facilitator must continue to pay their annual renewal license fee, maintain accurate books and records, and submit quarterly reports to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission - detailing the name and address of the originator and recipient of the beer, wine or liquor, date of delivery and weight of delivery. The retail licensee or the consumer must pay the fees associated with the delivery, and the Third Party Facilitator must offer services for all brands available at the retail location. A bonus for retail licensees
partnering with Third Party Facilitators, the Michigan Liquor Control Code does not hold the retail licensee liable for a violation made by the Third Party Facilitator - a departure from the liquor laws in other states. Of course, you still must be at least 21 years old to receive the delivery and the retailer or Third Party Facilitator must utilize an identification verification provider or procedures to ensure they remain compliant with the Michigan Liquor Control Code.
So, as you sink into your couch, basking in the warmth of your fireplace and watching the snow fall outside, rest assured that delivery of your favorite craft beer, handcrafted wine or distilled liquor from northern Michigan’s finest is now just a swipe away.
Cortney Danbrook advises business clients on liquor licensing and regulatory compliance and provides specialized counsel to individuals, families and businesses in the areas of estate planning and administration. She can be reached at (231) 714-0163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.