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Thu, April 25

Online alcohol orders illegal 2 - 6 a.m.

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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.


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