State seeks clampdown on online alcohol sales

Have insomnia?

Work unusual hours?

Or just woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly realized you forgot someone’s birthday and need to send them a case of wine?

Well, the way Attorney General Mark Brnovich sees it, you can’t get on your computer and order booze between 2 and 6 a.m., even if you’re not planning to have your order delivered until more reasonable hours -- and even if that order is going out of state.

The reason all this became a legal issue is because of questions raised John Cocca, director of the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. He said the way people buy beer, wine and hard liquor is changing.

“There are a lot more Internet sales and a lot more people ordering alcohol over the Internet or via the computer or over the phone,’’ he said.

Web sites in particular operate on a 24/7 basis. They don’t even require there be a live body at the other end.

But here’s the thing: Arizona law makes it illegal to sell, dispose of, deliver or give alcoholic beverages between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

That, in Cocca’s mind, raised the question, of what exactly does it mean to “sell’’ alcohol.

“There’s no difference in the law whether it’s a brick-and-mortar store or the computer,’’ he said. “The laws are the same for alcohol sales and delivery.’’

So he asked Brnovich for some guidance.

The attorney general, for his part, said he views the word “sell’’ to include not just delivering something.

“It also expressly includes soliciting or receiving an order,’’ Brnovich said. And that means a business “sells’’ alcoholic beverages when it takes the order.

More to the point, the attorney general said it’s irrelevant whether the seller charges the customer’s debit or credit card at that time -- or when the products are delivered.

Cocca said all that is crucial to the question of what’s legal in Arizona.

“If you ordered and purchased at 3 in the morning, that would be against the law because you’re not allowed to order and purchase between 2 and 6,’’ he said.

He also said the only time that counts is what’s on the clock in Arizona. Cocca said it’s irrelevant if someone is ordering from an out-of-state winery where it might be 7 in the morning.

But don’t worry that one of Cocca’s enforcement officers is going to be showing up at your door if you happen to successfully place an order in your pajamas.

He said Arizona’s liquor laws apply not to individuals but instead to the sellers who all have to be licensed by the state. That includes out-of-state firms that need to get a permit before delivering their products here.

And that means it’s the retailer who took that order at 3 a.m., Arizona time, who could wind up in legal hot water.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia


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IzzatSo 1 year ago

Just who is being protected by this anachronistic law? For 20 hours a day you can buy or sell all the alcohol you want, then comes a mandatory four hour break? What difference do those four hours make; what is the logic behind this intermission? Why scratch your head with legal questions about how to enforce this online, when the simple solution is to repeal the four hour restriction altogether. Maybe the bottom line should be to answer the question - Who really needs this four hour restriction... anyone?... Come on, speak up now.


scytheman 12 months ago

The proverb says: "A silent fool is counted wise", but no, yet they open their stupid mouths!

Mr. Cocca, the Arizona Liquor Control Commission is granted an authority by the state to regulate manufacture, distribution, sale and possession of alcohol only inside of Arizona state borders. The agency you are directing is not authorized to regulate anything outside of Arizona, period.

Mr. Brnovich, the retail sale and the place of sale is clearly explained in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 27 which is the valid bible for Arizona and other states.

No one gave neither of you any permission to regulate private actions of consumers while you allow sale and possession of alcohol in Arizona.

Mr. Fischer, the laws of Arizona do not apply to businesses in another states. Neither Arizona enforcement officers have any power outside of Arizona.

Arizona LCC can't require retailers in other state to obtain any permits either.