Is Amazon Flouting the Law With Its Supposed L.A. Liquor Store?

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Earlier this month, it was announced that Amazon had applied for a license to open a brick-and-mortar liquor store in San Francisco so that it could legally deliver wine and spirits around the city.

The wine database and search engine Wine-Searcher, however, reported that the online giant had already opened what appeared to be a liquor store in Los Angeles.

New reporting by Wine-Searcher’s U.S. editor, W. Blake Grey, however, has revealed that the putative Amazon facility isn’t a store at all. Grey found a warehouse, where workers were filling food orders, and, at the exact address that supposedly held the liquor store, just an unstaffed foyer he described as looking “like a jail.”

The license issued to the “store” by the state of California requires that alcoholic beverages be displayed and available for purchase at the location, and that it be open to the public (with opening hours posted) for at least half of the hours that it makes deliveries (meaning it should be open for at least eight hours). None of these conditions, Grey discovered, were being met.

Grey’s article found its way to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which regulates alcohol sales in the state, and the agency announced yesterday that they will investigate the matter. Matthew Hydar, supervising agent for the ABC told Grey that Amazon “could have some plausible explanation, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Or, there could be even more egregious violations.”

If the situation Grey found only lasted for a day and Amazon had an explanation, Hydar continued, “we could say, we understand.” However, he added, the ABC also has the ability to make the company surrender its license until it satisfies the legal requirements.

The company’s expansion into San Francisco will likely prove to be a savvy business decision. San Franciscans spend about $875 per capita on alcohol every year, which is substantial. These are the cities that spend the most on alcohol.