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Although Creature Comforts products can't be ordered directly from the brewery, they are still available through Cosmic Delivery's service with package stores. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

In case you missed it, some major Athens package stores have signed on to a new type of delivery service in the past month — alcohol. Locally-owned Cosmic Delivery is spearheading the alcohol delivery service by partnering with package stores scattered around Athens-Clarke County.

It’s not a completely new concept — some restaurants started offering cocktail kits and wine on their to-go menus earlier this fall. What makes Cosmic’s service different is the online platform it has carved out specifically for these package stores, giving customers the option to browse all available liquor, wine, beer and more. Customers can either order directly from the package store’s website and be redirected to Cosmic’s website, or they can order from menus made by Cosmic for the retailer.

Owner and co-founder Trent Walls said Cosmic had to pay close attention to legal language before launching this service. Walls and his co-founder, York Delloyd, actually started planning for this in June.

“We wanted to have a solid understanding … before we started delivering, because with alcohol that is so important,” Walls said. “So we spent the next six months creating processes for our drivers, and [on] technology upgrades.”

Receiving alcohol at home wouldn’t have been possible without the passing of Georgia House Bill 879. Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill in August after it was introduced in the General Assembly back in March. It would be a few more months after that when eateries, package stores, grocery stores, brewpubs and wine shops would be able to start delivering alcohol due to ongoing legal conversations.

According to the bill, delivery drivers transporting the alcohol must be at least 21 years old, have a valid Georgia drivers license, can’t have any DUI’s within the past seven years and must have undergone training specifically for alcohol sale and delivery, among other requirements. Walls said part of preparing for the service launch included “changing our hiring and selection processes” to legally comply with the bill.

But one major sector of alcohol production has been left out — breweries. Liquor laws in Georgia are historically restrictive regarding sales from breweries and distilleries directly to consumers. In this case, the state’s three tier distribution system limits sales to retailers, cutting out those at the top of the system who actually make the alcohol.

According to HB879, “a packaged goods retailer may deliver malt beverages and wine in unbroken packages lawfully sold to and purchased by an individual for personal use and not for resale.”

Remember last summer? Creature Comforts cited an unwelcoming atmosphere for Georgia brewers in its decision to open a brewery in California rather than in Atlanta. In a statement posted on the brewery website, Creature Comforts placed partial blame on state laws that limit beer consumption to what's made on-site.

Considering the beer-centric ways of the Classic City, Walls said he wishes breweries were included in this bill. He also said Cosmic still works with local breweries in whatever way his team can “just to make sure that products are properly featured.”

“Even if they're not ordering directly from the brewery, their products are still moving through the package stores that we’re offering,” Walls said.

Delivery is quick and relatively painless. Customers receive text messages every step of the way from Cosmic delivery drivers. When they get to their destinations, drivers have to enter the expiration date and birth date for each delivery in addition to following all delivery protocols — checking IDs and making sure customers aren’t visually intoxicated. There’s a final signature, and the booze is all yours.

An additional delivery fee is expected just like what customers would see for food delivery. Also, depending on where customers are located, there might be a fee for delivery from a package store that is significantly far from their location.

Walls said it’s too early to tell exactly what the future of his alcohol delivery service will be, but so far Cosmic has gotten largely positive reviews.

“So now kind of what we're doing is improving the customer experience,” Walls said. Then he spoke about Cosmic’s responsibility to retailers. “The biggest thing that we want to provide them with is making it easier for the customer to order and receive their product. … just helping them understand the ordering habits of their customers in the digital realm.”

The service launched on Dec. 14 and will include 14 participating retailers by its final stages of execution.