Picture this: You’re entertaining guests at your New Year’s party when you realize you’re short a few bottles of Champagne for the midnight toast. You don’t want to run out and potentially maim your sequined gown. What do you do? Or, more realistically, it’s 7 p.m. on a Tuesday and your baby is asleep, so you can’t leave the house until tomorrow morning. But you really need some boxed wine and to change out of the sweats you’ve had on for three days. What do you do?
If you’re in any major city in the U.S., you open an alcohol delivery app on your phone, select a few options, bing, bang, boom, and the booze shows up at your front door within the hour. Crises averted.
In April, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that would allow this adults-only digital magic within the borders of Alabama. Beer, wine and spirits can now be delivered directly to homes from retailers through alcohol delivery services and apps. Wine can be sent through the mail.
At the time of the law’s passage, a spokesperson for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said it probably would be months before alcohol delivery was a reality. Companies needed to receive licenses through the state to deliver alcohol and ship wine, and the availability of those services would be dependent on where you live.
Now here we are, months later, in one of Alabama’s major cities. So, what are our alcohol delivery options in Mobile?
If you do a Google search for “alcohol delivery mobile alabama,” you’d think our options were plentiful. Companies like Drizly (a national alcohol delivery service owned by Uber), Instacart and Walmart+ (which deliver groceries locally), spend big money to bombard you with ads promising to deliver alcohol to you as well. Click through to their websites, though, and you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
Take Instacart, for example. On their website, they claim to deliver alcohol in this area, specifically from The Fresh Market. The Instacart site even boasts that Cupcake Vineyards’ Pinot Noir is “popular in Mobile.” But when you actually search for beer or wine to purchase for delivery, you get stuck in an endless loop of error pages. It seems most of these platforms are conflating alcohol pickup with alcohol delivery, maybe — MAYBE — even purposely to confuse consumers. Click through to another site, alcoholdelivery.com, which promises “Alcohol Delivery in Mobile, Alabama – Fast 1 Hour Service!” and you’ll be perplexed to discover it just redirects you to Instacart.
A spokesperson for Drizly told me the company has been in “active discussions with retailers in Mobile and across Alabama since the legislation passed. They are eager to partner with us … Those retailers are currently working to secure the required permits and approvals from the state of Alabama necessary to engage in e-commerce, and we look forward to announcing our initial partners.”
I reached out to Instacart’s online chat client and asked when alcohol delivery would be available in this area. “I apologize as there are no stores that deliver alcohol,” the tech responded. “I suggest you try again after some time.”
Instead of trying again after some time, I reached out to the Alabama ABC Board to find out what was going on. Spokesperson Daniel Dye said things are really moving on the direct shipment of wine front. There are 39 companies, ranging from Perdido Vineyards in Baldwin County to Mattera Winery in Napa, Calif., who are now licensed to mail wine to Alabama residences. This number has steadily grown over the past two months.
The list of home delivery companies, however, has stalled. Only four companies hold licenses: Deerfoot Spirits LLC, Dippi, Pick Up My Things and Shipt.
“There are others who have submitted applications and paperwork to be processed,” Dye said. “One of the primary reasons why some of these companies have not received licenses yet is due to the fact their training processes/manuals have not been submitted to the Alabama ABC Board or are currently under review.
“The timing for approval, once all the forms and requested information are received by the ABC Board, occurs in a matter of two to three weeks. Again, the processing of additional delivery companies has come down to the ABC Board reviewing their delivery driver training materials. One of our primary concerns as it relates to home delivery is making certain minors will not obtain alcohol. One way that goal can be achieved is by making certain each company’s training is structured to do so.”
Four companies, though! That sounds promising. Let’s take a look.
Deerfoot Spirits does business as the Liquor Outlet in Jefferson County. This neighborhood liquor store delivers to Birmingham, Homewood, Hoover and Hueytown, every day, as late as 11:20 p.m. They do not deliver to Mobile.
Pick Up My Things is an errand-running service that can fetch your curbside orders, including ones that contain booze, from stores like Publix, and then drop them off at your home. It is a startup that serves Dothan, but not Mobile.
As far as Dippi goes, they required me to upload a photo of my driver’s license before I could even access their site. Then, when I attempted to find stores that deliver to me, I encountered a punctuation-free error message: “sorry we do not serve in this area please check back later.” This startup apparently only operates in Birmingham.
Last is Shipt, which does deliver in Mobile! Now we’re talking. While Shipt delivers groceries from a dozen stores in the area, it currently only delivers alcohol from Target. You can also order through the Target app or Target.com. Convenient, as Target owns Shipt. A spokesperson for Shipt said in a press release last month the company “will continue expanding alcohol delivery to additional retailers over time.”
Monday afternoon I attempted to place an alcohol order through the Shipt app. It was simple enough. The Target store page has a tab dedicated to alcohol, which includes wine, beer and hard seltzers. At the time of my order, 3:30 p.m., I was only given a few dozen options. I went with a couple of bottles of red — California Roots Cabernet Sauvignon ($9 for 1.5 liters), Love Noir Pinot Noir ($12.99 for 750 mL) and Beauty in Chaos Red Wine Blend ($12.99 for 750 mL). I had a promo code and got free delivery. For five bottles, plus tax and tip, my order came to $68.27. I would have paid the same amount, less the tip, had I gone to the store myself.
When I checked out I had to agree to Shipt’s alcohol delivery terms, which included promising I was at least 21 years old and acknowledging that the Shipt personal shopper could deny my delivery if I appeared intoxicated at the front door. I agreed and asked for the order to come ASAP.
An hour and a half later, bing, bang, boom, the shopper arrived, Target bags in hand. She recorded my driver’s license with a handheld scanner and I asked her about how alcohol delivery has been going. She said business is booming — the night before she had delivered 50 bottles to a single person. That’s why there weren’t many options showing up through the app, she said. Target’s shelves are routinely cleaned out because it is the only store that allows alcohol delivery in this area. (That Shipt press release also said the company “experiences an increase in alcohol orders through its platform during the holidays.”)
The next morning I checked the Shipt app again. There were now over 200 alcohol options for me, ranging from 12-packs of Bud Light ($10.99) to bottles of Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut ($22.99). The Target shelves must have been restocked overnight.
I was satisfied with my purchase and Shipt’s service, and I’ll probably use them again. However, Shipt’s monopoly is not necessarily good for consumers who don’t have the option to shop around. And it’s pretty unbelievable that after months of alcohol delivery being legal, we still only have one company in this area that provides us with this service. If any tech entrepreneurs are reading this, may I suggest launching an alcohol delivery startup in Mobile? I’d do it but I really need to change out of these sweats.
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