Mary Michaels keeps a bucket of treats under the counter for people who come in with dogs. She greets customers by first name. A woman walks in the front door just to tell Michaels that she's having a second baby.
Michaels owns Almor Wine & Spirits on Sunset Boulevard, a high-end liquor store that her parents opened in 1955. It was in the middle of the booming 1950s, the year that Disneyland opened in Anaheim. Long before the days of BevMo and Costco, Michaels' mother handwrote the store's name and address on hundreds of cards and distributed them around the neighborhood.
Liquor delivery: In the Dec. 27 Business section, an article about door-to-door liquor delivery in the Hollywood area misspelled the last name of Almor Wine & Spirits owner Mary Michiels as Michaels.
Today, competition from big-box and discount stores is stiff, but Michaels brings something potent to the table: instant gratification.
Decades ago, Hollywood's lavish parties created a demand for businesses that quickly delivered alcohol. And now, this relic of Hollywood's past is giving small liquor stores like Almor an edge in a market inundated with other ways to buy booze.
Although Southern California is dotted with stores that deliver alcohol to homes and businesses, the concentration is particularly high in and around Tinseltown. Within a 3-mile radius of the Hollywood & Highland Center are at least 10 stores that offer door-to-door alcohol delivery.
"Delivery is part of this area's tradition," said Danny Setareh, co-owner of Gil Turner's Fine Wines & Spirits in West Hollywood, which has been delivering for more than 50 years. "Everybody is happier with that, so why shouldn't we do it?"
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, nearby Laurel Canyon became known as home to musicians including Jim Morrison and Joni Mitchell. The narrow, winding roads leading in and out of the canyon made delivery a vital service, said Kerry Gogan, a record producer who grew up in the neighborhood during that time.
"It was kind of a discreet way to take care of your business without people knowing your business," said Gogan, whose family used alcohol delivery about once a week when she was a kid.
Today, as corporate and franchise businesses in things as varied as auto parts and yardage stores beat out mom-and-pop operations, Hollywood liquor merchants are keeping their customers with their ability to satisfy immediate urges.
"When you're shopping for liquor online, you want to get a drink," said Michael Crumrine, who lives in Laurel Canyon and gets alcohol delivered from Almor and the Laurel Canyon Country Store.
California is one of 18 states where the delivery of beer, wine and liquor is allowed with no restrictions. Nine states prohibit such deliveries. Even in New York, known for bringing almost anything to your doorstep, delivery of alcohol is restricted by quantity, and the delivery truck must be clearly marked.
In the Hollywood area, stores such as Almor, Bogie's Liquor and Mel & Rose report that they make about 30 deliveries a day.
The demand is so high that one liquor store has been transformed into a large-scale delivery service that employs 25 full-time employees. They drive a fleet of pink VW bugs making deliveries in 30 minutes. Although the company, Pink Dot, delivers prepared hot foods and groceries in addition to alcohol, owner Sol Yamini said its bestsellers are liquor, cigarettes and condoms.
Yamini said he plans to expand Pink Dot to downtown L.A., the San Fernando Valley, downtown San Diego and San Francisco over the next three years. Although he hopes all four locations will be successful, he said the West Hollywood spot will probably always be the busiest because of the culture there.
"You live in West Hollywood if you want to be in that Hollywood lifestyle — go to the bars the Kardashians go to, the guys from [the HBO series] 'Entourage' go to," he said. "People that live in WeHo live in WeHo because they like to go out, and going out goes hand in hand with drinking."
Will Salao, a district administrator with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said there's no way to know how many liquor stores offer delivery because no special license is needed besides the liquor license for the business.
But delivery can create complications for liquor store operators. If a liquor retailer allows a customer to pay for the products when they are delivered rather than online or at the store, Salao said, the business is violating its liquor license, which is restricted to sales at the address of the business with the license.