Tuesday, September 26, 2023

You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at rob@chauffeurdriven.com for next issue’s question.

TOPIC: What are your state’s alcohol regulations? What kind of policies do you set for your vehicles, particularly with holiday parties, special events, and wine/beer tours?

Randy Allen Virginia State Law (§ 18.2-323.1) has an exception that allows for the consumption of alcohol by passengers in “the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation, including a bus, taxi, or limousine, while engaged in the transportation of such persons.” All alcohol must remain in the possession of the passengers at all times. Passengers are not allowed to remove alcohol (whether in closed containers or not) when exiting the vehicle at a winery, brewery, or distillery.

Regarding intoxicated passengers, Virginia State Law (§ 46.2-2011.18) authorizes the driver of a commercial for hire vehicle to eject (hopefully while the vehicle is parked) any passenger who fails to act in an orderly manner or follow the orders of the driver allowing for the safe operation of the vehicle. The law further prohibits the passenger from collecting a refund or claiming damages in court.

Randy Allen, Owner
James Limousine in Richmond, Va.

Christine-Bennett In Idaho, the state owns the liquor stores. A person cannot buy hard liquor at grocery stores, but they can purchase beer and wine there. If the vehicle has a solid divider, it is legal for passengers to drink but it is solely bring your own. During winery tours, passengers are permitted to buy wine at a discounted price, and can then bring it in the vehicle to drink.

Idaho is a very conservative state with a slightly slower, more rural way of life, but it is growing fast. I find that we have fewer out-of-control groups causing problems due to the state’s alcohol laws. In the long run, this means potentially less revenue but a lot less trouble for Showcase and our chauffeurs.

Christine Bennett, President
Showcase Limousine in Boise, Idaho

Mike and Marlo Denning In Florida, the law states that you cannot have an open container in a noncommercial vehicle; however, you can have alcohol in a vehicle that has a partition/line divider between the chauffeur and passenger. This means that alcohol is not allowed to be consumed in sedans and SUVs or on public buses.

We only allow alcohol in appropriate vehicles if every single passenger in the vehicle is older than 21 years of age. Our chauffeurs are trained and mindful of appropriate drinking age and double-check IDs if there is any question. For weddings, we offer a sparkling wine to the bride and groom for celebratory toast—but only if everyone in the vehicle is at least 21 years of age.

Mike and Marlo Denning, Owners
Elegant Limousines in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Bonni Fortune Oregon has no laws regarding drinking in for-hire vehicles; however, being in the heart of the state’s wine industry, we developed a wine tour policy (e.g., mandatory group sizes, photo ID for anyone younger than 30, and a discussion about proper etiquette in the tasting room). We provide hosts on all our larger vehicles that have Oregon Liquor Control Commission certification; if a passenger exceeds their “limit,” we will deliver them to their homes. Our wine tour policy has since been adopted by the Oregon Wine Association.

Bonni Fortune, Affiliate Director
Lucky Limousine & Towncar Service in Portland, Ore.

Mark Kini In Massachusetts, passengers are allowed to drink in the passenger area of the vehicle. In my 17 years in business, we have had very few issues. The most common thing is a customer getting sick in the vehicle and having to assess a cleaning fee. We have only one stretch limousine left in our fleet, and we do allow alcohol inside of it. We make sure to include plastic glasses, napkins, and ice. Customers have to remain orderly or we tell them we will end the service.

Safety is our highest priority. We have a strict no-alcohol policy on proms. Bags are inspected and put in the trunk. While we currently do not have frequent wine and beer tours, this is something that is on our radar for future business.

Mark Kini, Founder & CEO
Boston Chauffeur in Beverly, Mass.

Anton Kirichenko In the state of Michigan, limousine companies can’t sell any alcohol—separately or as a part of a package; however, clients are allowed to provide their own.

For weddings, operators commonly throw in a bottle of complimentary champagne. While it is technically not legal, as far I know, there have been zero incidents of local cops asking “Who gave you that bottle?” They generally try to stay away from bothering wedding groups, which are usually well-behaved.

Anton Kirichenko, Owner
Motor City Limousine in Livonia, Mich.

Woldemar Muhlenkamp Our company has 20 years of experience in the German ground transportation industry, operating in the country’s major cities. There are big festivals such as the Oktoberfest in Munich or Carnival in Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Mainz where people drink a lot. Alcohol in vehicles can be a problem if you do not discuss it with the client, and in those cases, train your chauffeur to be very diplomatic with your clients.

The legal regulations vary throughout European countries; however, in our case, we do not forbid our passengers from drinking alcohol. Fortunately, we have never had an incident in our limousines.

During wine and beer tours, the guests cannot drink in the vehicles—only at the location. When it comes to large groups (e.g., sporting events or company parties), things are different because our clients will request that the buses offer alcoholic beverages, which sometimes leads to very unpleasant surprises. In our worst case, the bus had to be heavily cleaned afterwards, but the client apologized and paid for the cleaning. Even in these cases, the customer is king!

Woldemar Mühlenkamp, Global Sales Manager
Global Mobility Limousine & Chauffeur Service in Hanau, Germany

Jeff Nyikos New York policy states that we can’t provide alcohol in the vehicle, but clients can bring it and drink inside our buses and vans. In our contract, we make a point of highlighting that if someone gets sick in the bus, they’re responsible for paying for the additional cleaning fee.

Jeff Nyikos, President
Leros Point to Point in Valhalla, N.Y.

Nate Pippett We do a fair amount of microbrewery tours as well as marijuana dispensary tours. We usually combine the two depending on the clientele. During our tours, we can stop at multiple outlets in our local area. We have a strip called the Green Mile where there are six dispensaries and two breweries, which makes for a fun afternoon for out-of-state clients. To date, the majority of the tours are booked through hotel concierge desks.

As far as our state’s alcohol policy, guests can drink and have open containers in Colorado in the rear of the vehicles—but no open containers in the “shotgun” seat.

Nate Pippett, Owner/Managing Partner
B-LineXpress in Edwards, Colo.

Jason Ramsey Under Colorado law, a container need not be totally “open.” For example, a previously opened bottle of alcohol, such as resealed wine, cannot be forward of the trunk area in a car. No one in a vehicle may have an open alcohol container. Bottom line: No open container is allowed anywhere in the passenger compartment of a passenger vehicle while on a public highway (although exceptions exist for limousines, RVs, etc.).

Colorado exempts limousine companies from the “open container law,” allowing passengers (excluding a front-seat passenger) to be able to consume alcohol without repercussions.

Jason Ramsey, President
Prestige Worldwide Transportation in Denver, Colo.

Tracy Salinger In Pennsylvania, we may not provide alcohol to any client. We do not have a liquor license, as they are solely granted to a fixed location, not a moving vehicle. Because of that, our alcohol policy is that clients may provide their own. They are welcome to drop it off at our offices any time during the week prior to the event. We will have it cold and in the vehicle for them. If needed, an additional cooler will be filled with ice and overflow product in the trunk. If that is not convenient for them, they can bring it along with them at pickup.

For wine and beer tours, many vineyards do not allow patrons to bring their own alcohol, so anything they bring themselves must stay in the vehicle. If they partake at the winery or distillery, they are welcome to bring their current beverage or anything else they purchase out to the vehicle. We will happily load it and help unload it at the end of the tour when cases are purchased.

If anyone appears to be younger than 25, we have no problem carding them to confirm. Fortunately, it’s quite rare when someone even attempts to do this, as they are also carded at the drinking establishments. We are thankful that clients are being proactive and ensuring their safety as they enjoy the day with their loved ones.

Tracy Salinger, General Manager
Unique Limousine in Harrisburg, Pa.

Quentin Shackelford The state of Kansas is pretty straightforward with it alcohol laws, save for one. The law reads that you cannot have alcohol in the driver’s compartment. This is rather vague on purpose, in order to give officers more latitude with each incident. Depending on the attitude of the officer, the “driver’s compartment” could extend to areas other than the driver’s seat. Our chauffeurs occasionally get pulled over, and I was even made to do a field sobriety test with clients in the vehicle!

Quentin Shackelford, Owner
All-Class Limo in Wichita, Kan.

Jeff Shanker In North Carolina, there is a clear exception within the “open container of alcoholic beverage” law. As such, it is legal and permissible for someone in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation.

Jeff Shanker, Chief Strategist
Black Tie Transportation in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Brian Sheely We have reviewed the available information and found that Indiana, along with several surrounding states, allows the consumption of alcohol in a vehicle driven by a chauffeur for compensation, as long as the alcoholic beverages stay out of the driver’s area and remain in the back seat.

Brian Sheely, President
Epic Limo in Valparaiso, Ind.

We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions since debuting this interactive section—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!

Have you wondered how others in the industry have tackled a concern you’re currently facing, handled a delicate issue, implemented a certain policy, or do you simply want to propose a topic for our consideration?

Send an email to rob@chauffeurdriven.com and you just might see your query answered in a future issue. We look forward to your input!