On Monday, bottle tracking website Wine-Searcher.com published an article accusing Amazon of “openly flouting” California liquor law.
Written by the site’s U.S. editor, W. Blake Gray, the article claimed Amazon’s Prime Now liquor business is bypassing the state’s laws by claiming to operate a brick-and-mortar Los Angeles store that doesn’t exist.
In an update posted on Tuesday, Wine-Searcher reported that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has now opened an investigation into Amazon over the alleged breach of its liquor license.
As detailed by Gray, California requires businesses that offer alcohol for home delivery to also operate a physical store. Per the terms of Prime Now’s liquor license, its Los Angeles store must open for half of the hours of its delivery business (eight hours per day, in this case) and should display its opening hours at the store’s entrance.
When Gray decided to check out the Prime Now store for himself, he turned up at the address listed on the liquor license only to discover no such store exists. The distribution warehouse was in full operation, but nowhere could he find alcohol on sale to the public.
“Amazon is openly flouting the conditions it agreed to just six months ago,” Gray wrote. “You can order whiskey or wine from the Amazon warehouse at 3334 N San Fernando Rd. in Los Angeles. But there’s no liquor store open to the public there.”
As part of the article, Gray interviewed California ABC supervising agent Matthew Hydar. He questioned the agent over the hypothetical penalties a business faced for multiple violations of its liquor license.
“With multiple egregious offenses, we would look at anything from a fine, which would range from $750 to $3000, or, but not and, a 15-day license suspension,” Hydar said. “We can levy fines and suspensions and revocations. This will all depend on the investigation.”
Following publication, Gray spoke to the agent again. Hydar told Wine-Searcher he forwarded the story to his supervisors, who were now investigating the case.
At the time of writing, it’s unclear what the ramifications for Amazon will be. One possible outcome could require the company to surrender its liquor license until it builds the brick-and-mortar store. Until that time, Amazon would not be allowed to deliver wine and spirits from its Los Angeles warehouse.