AmazonFresh has stopped selling and delivering beer, wine, and other liquors to its disappointed patrons, and the e-commerce website's grocery arm is not saying why.
The news was first reported by GeekWire, who got in touch with Philip Beber, a software engineer at a Seattle-based video conferencing company called Fuze. Beber is an AmazonFresh regular and frequently stocks up the company fridge with bottles of India Pale Ales for him and his colleagues.
Last week, Beber noticed that the entire beer and wine section on AmazonFresh was no longer there, so he wrote to customer support to ask about it, stating that the low supply of beer "could cause serious problems." A customer service representative replied to Beber's email, confirming that AmazonFresh has indeed taken off the beers and wines from its virtual shelves. However, the representative stopped short of saying why.
"I'm truly sorry that the beer and wine selections have been removed. Unfortunately, we really are not sure if or when the item will become available at this time," says the AmazonFresh agent. "I completely understand how inconvenient and frustrating this can be. I will forward this feedback and comments to our business team."
AmazonFresh is not the only online retailer that has stopped selling alcoholic drinks. Last year, InstaCart halted sales of beer and wine in an attempt to "be proactive about compliance," although the e-commerce store said at the time that it met all alcoholic drink delivery regulations in Washington. InstaCart said it will resume delivery of alcohol "very soon," but a look at its website shows no section for any sort of alcoholic beverage.
It is possible that AmazonFresh is dealing with regulatory issues over the delivery of alcohol in Washington, where Amazon is based, which has its own rules [pdf] as to which retailers can deliver alcoholic drinks and to whom. It is unclear, though, what regulations AmazonFresh could be contending with.
The rules imposed by the state's Liquor Control Board require that retailers obtain a spirit retail license and special Internet-sales privileges to sell alcohol online and deliver it to customers. Delivery must be within the period between 6:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. and only to persons 21 years old and older. Retailers are also required to obtain the signature of the person to whom the shipment is delivered.
While AmazonFresh and InstaCart settle out whatever is stopping them from delivering alcohol shipments, customers can turn to Drizly, a new liquor-delivery app for iOS and Android that works just like Uber by connecting buyers with local, independent spirit stores in their area.