Bills pending at State Capitol seek to expand alcohol access in Mississippi

Bills pending at State Capitol seek to expand alcohol access in Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - If you want a bottle of wine or liquor and live in the state of Mississippi, it requires a trip to your local package store. Multiple bills have been filed at the State Capitol that would change that.

You may already be enjoying the convenience of grocery delivery, but what if those same services could pick up your favorite wine or liquor and drop it off at the door, too?

“With the pandemic that’s going on, people don’t have to leave their houses,” said shopper Angel Thomas. “They can just make their orders for their alcohol online. I think it will be really great.”

Senate Bill 2804 that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee would allow permits to make that happen.

“It’s inside Mississippi,” explained Sen. Josh Harkins. “It’s to your area. There are a lot of the rules and regulations that have to be adhered to. Such as... you can’t be in a dry county and purchase it. You have to be in a county that already recognizes the sale of alcohol.”

The delivery service Shipt is one of the companies supporting the change. Both the companies and delivery drivers would be required to hold permits to participate in alcohol delivery in the state if the bill passes.

“A lot of our citizens are looking for convenience,” added Harkins as he referenced the mindset during the pandemic.

Another bill that would allow for direct wine shipments has not yet been taken up in committee.

Mississippians can currently order wine from a winery and pick it up at a package store but not have it sent straight to them. Finally, there are two pending bills, SB 2433 and HB 592, that would allow for wine to be sold in grocery stores.

“We’re a little slow to react but, my gosh, we’ve got marijuana being legalized now,” said Sen. Walter Michel. “I think wine in grocery stores should be a very minor step for us.”

The Looking For Wine Mississippi coalition has been lobbying for the bill since 2015 and they’re prepared to turn to voters in the form of a ballot initiative if lawmakers don’t pass the bill this session.

“We did a statewide poll in February of last year and those numbers indicated that 74 percent of adult 21 years and older Mississippians support wine in grocery stores,” said coalition chair Elliott Flaggs. “So, we have no doubt that that effort will likely pass next November.”

In past years, local wine and spirit store owners are the ones that have pushed back on the law change to allow wine in grocery stores, saying it could eventually put many small shops out of business.

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