Today in news that should shock literally zero people, California regulators have learned that minors are using food delivery apps to buy booze. An investigation by the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control concluded that “third-party delivery services are routinely delivering alcoholic beverages to minors.” The investigation was spurred by a Washington Post article on Uber Eats and its failure to follow state regulations; the app has been delivering alcoholic beverages without enforcing ID checks to confirm that customers are 21 and over. According to the law, Uber Eats drivers are supposed to do the ID check when they make the delivery; instead, the drivers have been leaving orders on customers’ doorsteps and leaving. This is what any rational delivery driver would do, because no one should have to risk their lives to keep Applebee’s Mucho Margaritas from falling into the wrong hands.
It’s not just Uber Eats, either: In an interview with the Washington Post, Jacob Appelsmith, director of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the department ordered around 200 drinks over the span of several weekends using all major third-party delivery apps, sending them to
narcs decoys under the age of 21. While only 25% of restaurants and bars failed the test, 80% of the alcoholic beverages ordered through third-party delivery apps were delivered without an ID check. After Appelsmith personally called representatives at the offending delivery services to report the issue, another sting operation was run; this time, only 50% of alcoholic beverages made it to their underage targets—though if you’re a teenager these are still really good odds!
Technically, Uber Eats does not allow alcohol to be sold on its app, but that hasn’t stopped restaurants from offering to-go cocktails on their menus. Uber Eats’ policy means they do not have an in-app system for checking IDs, so if any parents find their kid in the bathtub covered in Long Island Iced Tea, they can take it up with Chili’s. And since California law does not allow the department to penalize delivery apps for any sort of mishandling of alcoholic beverages, it’s the delivery drivers, bars, and restaurants that could potentially be held liable for serving alcohol to minors, even if they did so unknowingly.