A California bill mandates training for delivery drivers carrying alcohol. Big Tech opposes it.

·2 min read
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The tech industry is lobbying California lawmakers against a bill that would require drivers for companies like DoorDash and UberEats to be trained and certified by the state in how to avoid delivering alcohol to minors.

Current law allows restaurants to offer cocktails to go as part of a meal order, as long as the customer picks the order up directly from the restaurant. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control mandates that restaurant employees who make alcoholic sales be trained to avoid selling to minors.

Senate Bill 846, by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, authorizes delivery drivers to bring alcoholic cocktails and removes the requirement that the drinks be accompanied by a meal. It would also would mandate that such drivers complete the Responsible Beverage Service training certification before being allowed to do so.

The bill is currently being held in suspense by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which will decide its fate Thursday.

If approved by the committee, it will proceed to the Assembly floor for a vote. The bill already has passed out of the Senate with unanimous support.

TechNet, an organization of technology CEOs and senior executives, is hoping to stop that from happening.

In a letter to Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, TechNet Deputy Executive Director Lia Nitake called the training requirement inappropriate. She said the bill is “consequently undermining safe and responsible delivery and damaging the entire marketplace, and ignores technological advances that have the ability to further safeguard and ensure consistent delivery.”

In a statement to The Bee, Nitake said that the bill as written requires drivers to take a training course intended for bartenders and restaurant managers.

“TechNet supports responsible training requirements that prioritize safety and are tailored to delivery drivers. The bill is well-intentioned, and we’ve worked closely with the author to try to address this issue, but unfortunately the training requirement in print will end up hurting the industry it seeks to help,” Nitake said.

In the letter to Holden, Nitake wrote that requiring delivery drivers to take the Responsible Beverage Service training would discourage many from signing up to do the job. Depending on the provider, training takes between 90 minutes and four hours, according to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control website.

The bill’s author, Dodd, said he was incensed by the tech industry lobbying against the provision of his bill.

“Frankly, these delivery companies are putting profits ahead of people and greed ahead of safety,” Dodd said in an interview with The Bee.

Dodd said that he believes Chair Holden understands the importance of this issue.

“I just know that he probably believes that we can’t have the fox guarding the henhouse coop,” he said.

The senator said that while the Legislature has given considerable leeway to alcohol providers in recent years, including allowing people to pick up cocktails to go from their favorite restaurants, “one thing we will not tolerate is selling alcohol to minors.”