- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 14, 2014

The District’s liquor board will allow Web-based alcohol delivery services to operate in the city under guidelines issued Thursday, an about-face from the position it took months ago when it shut down one such company.

Under guidelines drafted by the D.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Board, the companies can act as middlemen and provide customers with websites and smartphone applications used to order beer, wine or liquor. However, the companies are not permitted sell or deliver the alcohol themselves.

The alcohol board told two companies, Drizly and Klink, that their business models fall within the scope of the District’s law and that they are allowed to operate.

The board in June ordered a similar company, Ultra, to cease all services while it worked to develop guidelines for Web-based alcohol services.

In May, Ultra partnered with a Dupont Circle liquor store to take alcohol orders online and guaranteed delivery within an hour. The plan was for the company to capitalize on Web-savvy consumers, with Ultra charging a $5 flat fee for the service. The liquor stores themselves were the ones delivering the booze, but the alcohol board took issue with the fact that Ultra was the company processing the credit card transactions — essentially acting as the seller.

Ultra owner Aniket Shah said he plans to relaunch his alcohol service in the coming days.

“This is a great news for D.C. consumers,” Mr. Shah said in a statement. “Ultra received great response from D.C. consumers the first time around and look forward to serving them again.”

Ultra originally launched in New York City and has been active in Silver Spring, Maryland, and in Chicago. It plans to begin service in California and Massachusetts.

In the District, the alcohol board cautioned would-be operators to carefully review the guidelines.

“We encourage businesses that facilitate the sale of alcoholic beverages to contact the agency before starting any new operations in the District,” said Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration Director Fred Moosally. “This will allow us to ensure operations are compliant with the law before they begin.”

Under the city’s guidelines, Web-based businesses would need to transfer any credit card information provided to a licensed liquor store in order to legally complete a transaction. The liquor license holder would have to retain the ability to process or deny any order to stay within the guidelines.

A technology company that does not adhere to the guidelines could face criminal or civil penalties and be ordered to cease operations. A liquor store that violates the law could face fines or suspension or revocation of its license.

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