The notion of home beer delivery in Pennsylvania - commonplace throughout most of America - is a reality.
Hawthornes, the South Philadelphia cafe whose refrigerator cases have about 1,000 varieties of beer, on Friday, March 6 will start taking web orders to allow customers in most of South Philadelphia and all of Center City to choose from a list of 89 craft six-packs. The limit is two six-packs per transaction, and deliveries are done between noon and midnight. Growler filling is coming up.
Hawthornes owner Chris Fetfatzes, who noticed that the delivery service Instacart was permitted by the state to deliver wine and spirits to private homes, queried the state Liquor Control Board last fall about the legality of Hawthornes' delivering beer. (In Pennsylvania, the state directly sells wine and spirits to consumers; beer is sold through licensed outlets - bars, restaurants and distributors.)
In December, the LCB's chief counsel replied to explain that a transporter-for-hire license - which Instacart had obtained - would allow Fetfatzes (or any retail liquor license holder, for that matter) to deliver beer, if the sale was conducted on the premises, if each sale was limited to two six-packs (or 192 ounces), and if the delivery vehicle was owned or leased by his company and operated by his employees. Purchasers must be 21 or older and must pay by credit card, because that "locates" the transaction at the restaurant and not at the delivery point.
In a test of Hawthornes' service last week, a six-pack each of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald and Firestone Walker Pivo Pils made it to my office a mile away in less than an hour.
The six-packs sold for $17.95 and $18.95, including tax and delivery; I signed for the beer, showing ID, and tipped the cheerful driver $5. Two colleagues promptly snagged the beer, which was neither seen nor heard from since. (At 5.8% ABV, I doubt they got wrecked on the Edmund Fitzgerald.)
Though the prices are on the steep side, restaurateurs are expecting such a delivery service to become popular.
Word of the LCB decision inspired pizzerias and bars such as Allegro Pizza in West Philadelphia, Franzone's in Bridgeport and Conshohocken, and CJ & Ecks in Manayunk to apply for transporter-for-hire licenses in addition to their current liquor licenses. They cost about $1,000, including fees.